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Recognizing Excellence in the World’s Largest Tennis Tournament

October 3, 2003 03:51 PM

What does a tennis tournament with over 2,000 competitors, 325 hard working volunteers, more than thirty sponsors and a local economic impact of approximately $13.2 million get you? How about the 2003 Capital City / Lake Murray Regional Tourism Award!

The 2003 USA League Tennis Southern Section Championships, which were held this past July in Columbia and Lexington, SC, was presented late last month with this prestigious South Carolina tourism award.

“The USA League Tennis Southern Sectional Championships was an exceptional event as the number of volunteers involved and the financial and social impact it had on our region was significant,” explained Miriam Atria, President/CEO Capital City Lake Murray Country Regional Tourism Board. “The economic impact of this event, and the number of out-of-state visitors that were drawn here, was truly astounding and it greatly benefited our community.”

Competitors came to the Columbia / Lexington area from all nine states in the USTA Southern Section – Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee – with a single goal in mind; to take home a sectional championship and earn the right to compete at the Nationals.

Players at all levels were treated to an outstanding level of competition on the courts and a bevy of exciting social events off. Player parties were held at the Pine Island Resort at Lake Murray and at the Riverfront Zoo.

Jim Wescott, the Local Tournament Chairman, and his army of volunteers raised the bar in countless ways. Jim, a Men’s 3.5 National Champion himself, has first-hand experience competing at Sectional events in the past. His vision to showcase the newly built Lexington County Tennis Complex, and the Lexington Area Tennis Association, a newly founded community tennis association, as well as create an experience for the players that would be memorable “win or lose” was met on every conceivable level.

For nine days the buzz around town was tennis, tennis and more tennis. Local hotel, restaurant, and store employees were seen socializing with the competitors and many were overheard saying that their interest in the game had been renewed after seeing the excitement that came along with the competiton.

Prior to the event it was announced that Drs. Tom Regan, Laura Sawyer and Matt Bernthal from the University of South Carolina’s School of Sports Management and Entertainment planned on conducting an in-depth economic impact and marketing study. At previous year’s Sectional Championships this type of study was forecasted, but never actually realized using the extensive calculations planned by the team at USC.

After careful data analysis, it was determined that the 2003 USA League Tennis Southern Sectional Championships had a total financial impact to the Columbia / Lexington area of over $13.2 million. While this event has long been touted as the “World’s Largest Tennis Tournament,” its actual financial impact on a community had never truly been understood.

“I would like to thank the Capital City Lake Murray Country Regional Tourism Board for recognizing all the hard work that went into organizing this tournament," said Jim Wescott, the Local Tournament Chairman. “I also owe a huge debt of gratitude to the 325 volunteers, 33 sponsors, the USTA Southern Section and South Carolina staff, the South Carolina Parks & Recreation and Tourism Departments, Lexington County, The City of Columbia, Richland County, The Town of Lexington, and the 2,000 players and their teams for helping to make this year’s championship the best one ever!”

”We had a considerable operating budget,” continued Wescott. “So based on the results of the economic impact study, for every dollar we spent it impacted the community 100 times over. That is an impressive statistic!”

Wescott’s energy and enthusiasm made the running of this event look easy. But in reality it takes many months of planning and organizing to simply get started. Some might say that you would have to be crazy to want the kind of responsibility that goes into running this type of event. That may be true, but plans are already well underway for the 2004 event and Jim Wescott is willingly leading the charge.

After the rousing success of the 2003 championships it is doubtful that anyone will dare question his ability to improve upon what has already been accomplished.

For more information on the 2003 USA League Tennis Southern Section Championships visit the event's official website.




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