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ALAN’S BLOG: Chicago disaster a warning to Philly one million dollar dreams

The US Open in Chicago

The US Open in Chicago

By ALAN THATCHER

This time contracts have been signed. This time the ink is on the deal. This time I believe it might happen.

I’m talking about the promise by Drexel University to make the US Open the first million-dollar squash tournament, with equal prize money for men and women.

This promise has been made before. I helped out at the US Open when it was held in the open air in Chicago.

I was MC, media man, and commentated live on every match in the final Horizon production for the PSA at a desk 45 degrees to the back right of the court, squinting at a seven-inch monitor.

Wonderful venue, brilliant people behind the tournament, and a great buzz around the whole thing. A group of advisers came on board promising to make the US Open the first million-dollar squash tournament.

They sweet-talked the PR team at the Willis Tower (the former Sears Tower became known as the Big Willie) to allow a camera team to film the finalists, Amr Shabana and Ramy Ashour, knocking a ball against one of the all-glass observation boxes.

That was scary. Standing inside a glass box 1,353 feet above the ground, and trying your hardest not to look down, was like having an eye in the sky.

Sadly, the confident marketing talk of the guys promising to line up a million bucks proved to be pie in the sky.

The pitch was superb. The dream seemed so real. But, like Icarus, reaching out to the sun, they got burned.

The sponsors did not materialise and the US Open, after a brave attempt at housing the glass court on stage at the Millennium Park theatre, headed from Chicago to Philadelphia.

Signing a ten-year commitment is a big deal. I admire the way that US Squash operates. Kevin Klipstein and his team understand how money works and they must have been presented with compelling reasons for signing such a long-term agreement.

My only worry is that this throws out a challenge to other major tournaments to match it. During a global recession that might not be easy to pull off.

 

Posted on October 17, 2013

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About The Author

Alan Thatcher

Lifelong sports journalist and squash lover. Event promoter, coach, author, voice artist. Founder of World Squash Day.

2 Comments

  1. Richard Millman October 17, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    So here we have the whole question encapsulated:

    Which is the better way to do growth?

    Top down or bottom up?

    If we had resources for both perhaps there would be merit for both. But do we and are the $1million needed going to be found in places where they could be doing more bottom up than top down?
    I don’t have the answers – but I have my suspicions as to the better way to go. Not so sexy. But slow and steady wins the day.

    Richard Millman

  2. Alan Thatcher October 19, 2013 at 12:53 am

    That, of course, is literally the million-dollar question. Every PSA and WSA tournament should be used to promote squash to the local community. Let’s hope that, as well as the million dollars of prize money, there is also a large enough pot to undertake grass-roots development work.
    That kind of outreach program should be part of every PSA and WSA tournament contract.

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