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.