All eyes were on the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Sunday afternoon April 28, site of the First Annual New York Tennis Expo. As cars lined the streets and the parking lots filled up, shuttle buses escorted patrons inside the National Tennis Center as droves of people came over from the trains/subway and it looked like the U.S. Open was in town. This beautiful spring afternoon was not about professional tennis though … it was about the local tennis movement and it brought out the largest crowd ever for a grassroots tennis event in New York with just shy of 3,000 attendees coming out. The best part was that event hosts Long Island Tennis Magazine and New York Tennis Magazine put the entire event on for FREE!
The buzz for the First Annual New York Tennis Expo began a few months ago. Long Island Tennis Magazine and New York Tennis Magazine utilized all resources in our efforts to publicize this event both locally and nationally. It was our chance to create a greater platform for the businesses that support the publications and the chance to grow participation in the sport of tennis. The marketing was done across all mediums, as the event was promoted in print and Web ads, across social networks, on radio shows, via e-mail blasts, and most importantly, via word-of-mouth to the area’s kids, families, coaches and businesses that support the local tennis community.
When the day of the Expo arrived, everyone was ready, and even Mother Nature cooperated with temperatures in the upper 60s with sun. The doors opened and people flocked in. The event had something for everyone. There were amazing raffles where people could win trips to famous resorts such as Van Der Meer and Sea Colony, along with U.S. Open tickets just by signing up. There was also tours of Arthur Ashe Stadium Court and the U.S. Open locker rooms where participants had a once-in-a-lifetime behind the scenes look at the National Tennis Center. Down the main hallway of the National Tennis Center were 50 top exhibitors displaying everything from tennis apparel, to training aids, to sunglasses, to sports memorabilia, to rackets. Clubs were getting sign-ups, camps were filling up spots for the summer season and many of the exhibitors were raffling off an array of prizes.
At the end of hallway, 600 people took part in two informative sessions featuring world renown coaches and . The first session was "The Road to College Scholarships," headlined by world renowned coach Nick Bollettieri and Fox News political commenter Sean Hannity as emcee and moderator. Among those on the panel were former world top 10 Tim Mayotte, along with expert coaches Chuck Kriese, Cory Parr, Jay Harris, Whitney Kraft and Clay Bibbee. The second session, "Taking Your Game to the Next Level,” again headlined by Nick Bollettieri discussing both the mental and physical sides of tennis. Panelists included Tim Mayotte, Lawrence Kleger, Steve Kaplan, Tom Clear, Tina Greenbaum and Dr. Tom Ferraro. At the end of the sessions, many flocked to the front of the room for autographs and pictures with the speakers.
On the second level of the National Tennis Center was where the real fun was. The three indoor courts were crowded all day, as kids and adults alike took part in activities such as 10 & Under Tennis, a Speed Serve Booth, and a Hit for Prizes Court. DJ CMNY was spinning music on-court, while Sportimes mascot Tennis the Menace introduced himself to all the young ones and took photos. Also up on the second level was the Kids Zone where kids could have their faces painted, get glitter tattoos and have balloon animals made. The smiling faces were plentiful.
With the gorgeous weather, another major highlight was the outside play area. The new Sports Deck Area at the National Tennis Center allowed for open play on mini-courts between kids and parents. Also on the deck, New York Tennis Magazine had a photographer shooting mock Magazine cover photos. Down the stairs from the deck, the world famous Stadium Court 17 featured the St. John’s University men’s and women’s tennis teams running a "Beat the College Player” contest.
This event has turned a spotlight on grassroots growth. Businesses came from all over the country to participate and we have received phone calls from people looking for our assistance to put more of these events on in other areas. Grassroots tennis and grassroots publications are the backbone of tennis growth. What better event could there ever be to grow participation than one like this that was free and where everyone left happy.
The First Annual New York Tennis Expo is just the beginning of ways that Long Island Tennis Magazine and New York Tennis Magazine will use its expanding platform and strong bonded relationships within the tennis community to help supporters reach the masses with their messages. These publications will continue to grow the game and will continue to partner with those who support our goals and vision as well. The turnout at the First Annual New York Tennis Expo shows that the tennis community wants more media and more events, and Long Island and New York Tennis Magazines will continue to provide that as tennis grows. Plans are underway for a Second Annual New York Tennis Expo and preliminary details will be announced for this event in the coming months.
Some comments from those in attendance …
"I had a great time. Loved the prizes and hope to come back next year."
—Jesper D'Alessandro (11-years-old)
"I came here all the way from Florida for this event and it has been an outstanding and high-quality event. Would definitely return for a second year and more."
—Ches Gibson (IMG Academy)
"I liked hitting at the 10&Under courts and liked the music."
—Molly D'Alessandro (6-years old)
"This was the first time I have been really able to reach out to the tennis community to demo my product. To have an audience like this at the New York Tennis Expo has been incredible."
—Dave Lipetz (Tennis Balance Board)
"I really enjoyed the event and my bag of prizes. Had a great time and it was very crowded. I had a very good time at the Kids Zone and am glad I came."
—Tyler D'Alessandro (8-years-old)
"It was a great opportunity for us to showcase what we have to offer to the tennis community."
—Sharon Rappaport (Sportime)
"Great crowd, lots of info gathered on some of the area's great programs and an amazing turnout by the local tennis community."
—Neil Samuels (attendee)
"I never picked up a racquet before, but was so inspired by the speeches and activities at the Expo that I can't wait for next year's event. I will now be playing tennis full-time thanks to my experience here today."
—Ruhima Hajang (attendee)
"My family had a blast. What an event!"
—Steve Gold (tennis parent)
"This event was a great opportunity to get my club's info out to the entire local tennis community. I would definitely return for another year."
—Amandine LeGoupil-Mair (Long Beach Tennis Center)
"I learned a lot from the drills and coaches. What a fun time for me and my family."
—Hailey Stewart (junior player)
"This event went extremely well for us."
—Tracy Cassandro (Sportime)
Credit photos to Nicole Guglielmo
Attendees take a break from the day's events to check out the latest issue of New York Tennis Magazine
Attendees check in prior to entering the Expo Hall
Marble Play interviews attendees of the New York Tennis Expo
Attendees are greeted by Tennis the Menace, mascot of the New York Sportimes of World TeamTennis
Robert Kendrick tries his hand at ping-pong
The new Sports Deck Area at the National Tennis Center
Kids run through the obstacle course
Emcee Sean Hannity (far right) welcomes the panel of speakers
Members of the St. John's Tennis team on Court 17
DJCM kept the hits coming while the kids enjoyed the indoor activiites
The future of New York tennis was on hand for the First Annual New York Tennis Expo
Tina Greenbaum, Steve Kaplan, Tom Clear and Lawrence Kleger were among the panelists at the "Taking Your Game to the Next Level" session