Bracing for a destructive financial impact generated by the coronavirus pandemic, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) is set to commit more than $50 million in spending to support its sport's ecosystem, over a multi-year, multi-phase plan.
The USTA announced the second phase of its plan Thursday, which will work to provide rapid relief and ensure its industry is prepared for a rebuild should the crisis produce lasting effects. Several grants are in the development process for a range of stakeholders, including facility owners, certified tennis professionals and grassroots organizations backing underserved communities, while a centralized, collaborative online resource, Tennis Industry United, now offers webinars, legal advice and continuing professional development. Community tennis remains the organization's top priority, with $35 million in commitments allocated toward “grow the game” programming through 2021.
“We recognized helping tennis facilities, community tennis programs, and teaching professionals navigate the multitude of government grants and loans was of immediate importance,” said Mike Dowse, CEO and Executive Director of the USTA. “The foundation of our sport begins with these stakeholders and we need to ensure they can weather the storm and remain viable as the storm recedes. This is all about ‘relief, recovery and rebuild’ for our industry.”
Plans for staging the 2020 US Open remain ongoing, though USTA stated that the scope of future commercial support will be determined by whether COVID-19’s devastation carries over to the Grand Slam event. The organization has already recouped $20 million in savings by reducing USTA management salaries, eliminating programs in marketing, player development and operations, and deferring all non-essential capital projects.
“With phase one and phase two, the priority has been to start the process of ensuring that the foundation of our sport remains in place and is viable in the future,” added Dowse. “We now quickly are taking a look at the broader tennis ecosystem and are working with our colleagues within the Grand Slams, the ITF, the ATP and the WTA Tour to determine how to provide help for lower-ranked professional tennis players who are facing tournament cancellations and financial hardship.”
Helping with New York City's overflowing hospitals, the USTA Billie Jean National Tennis Center has been transformed into a temporary 470-bed facility. Louis Armstrong Stadium is acting as a streamlined commissary to produce 25,000 meals daily for frontline workers and those seeking food assistance.
The ATP and WTA tours are currently suspended through July 12, though tournaments beyond that date have recently been pulled off the calendar due to local restrictions. Last Saturday, the WTA Rogers Cup in Montreal was cancelled in response to the Quebec government prohibiting large events until August 31, and on Wednesday, Hamburg followed suit as a result of Germany enacting the same restrictions.