Josh Ripple is the Tournament Director of the New York Open and was integral in moving the tournament from Memphis to New York. Long Island Tennis Magazine sat down with Josh to talk about the tournament making its move to Long Island and what the future holds for the newest ATP World Tour event.
Talk a little bit about your background … who is Josh Ripple?
I am just a small town boy from Rockland County, N.Y., who was fortunate enough to play tennis and eventually work in the business of tennis. I graduated from Ramapo High School in Monsey, N.Y., and then went to George Washington University in Washington, D.C., playing four years of varsity tennis.
Upon graduation, GWU hired me as their Men's Varsity Tennis Coach and then I was lucky to land a job with one of the major sports marketing companies of that time called ProServ. Donald Dell's group employed me for just about 14 years, and then I signed on to be part of a spin-off company called StarGames before going to the WTA Tour where I served as President and COO. The journey then took me to several fun non-tennis roles before becoming a resident of Las Vegas where I became part of a group that opened The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, serving as its Head of Entertainment and Sponsorship Sales in 2011.
In late 2013, I joined another Las Vegas-based company called Life Is Beautiful as its COO, and was part of an amazing team that created one of the world's largest and best music, culinary, art and learning festivals. In early 2015, the formulation of GF Sports began, and in July of that year, we opened our doors as owners and operators of the ATP Tour properties in Atlanta and Memphis.
Discuss how the New York Open came about?
When we created GF Sports in July 2015, one of our objectives was to relocate some of our properties closer to our home headquarters in New York. When we learned through one of the world's largest entertainment companies, Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment, that Nassau Coliseum was going through a massive renovation, there seemed to be an opportunity to move the only United States indoor tournament on the ATP Tour to this "new" indoor venue which would allow us to present a professional sporting event as we think it should be produced. Once we determined that the facility not only could accommodate the needs of an event such as ours but also be an important destination for the New York-metropolitan area, the decision was quite simple to make it happen. In April of 2017, the deal was struck with Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment, as our partners, and the New York Open was born.
What should the Long Island and New York-metropolitan area community expect from the tournament?
It is interesting that with the advent of the New York Open, professional tennis in the United States actually begins and ends in New York. Being bookends with the U.S. Open is quite interesting and presents a great opportunity for fans to have both a summer and winter tennis destination. While the U.S. Open is perhaps the greatest tennis event in the world, the New York Open should fill that fix for people who want to see major professional tennis more than once a year. People should expect that we will create a multi-dimensional entertainment property that is immersive, from an experiential standpoint and compelling as an ATP World Tour tournament. The goal is to for the New York Open to be about tennis, music, lifestyle activities, and up close and personal interaction between the fans and players that most tennis people don't get at larger championships like the U.S. Open. On top of all that, the community should expect us to be great neighbors, and with a 10-year commitment to the Coliseum, we have already started to grow roots.
What makes the return of the New York Tennis Expo the perfect lead-in event for the New York Open?
Any time you have the opportunity for people to see, touch and taste the product, then there's a good chance that they will want to engage. The premise for our relationship with the New York Tennis Expo is to create compelling content and interactive opportunity for businesses and attendees to experience the importance of this very cool expo and get a behind-the-curtain peek at what the New York Open is all about and how it will look. The halo effect that we believe will be created from the New York Tennis Expo should bode well for the New York Open. Likewise, the association of the Expo with the New York Open hopefully provides that credible, big-time event benefit that will attract large numbers of people.
What is your goal for the tournament, both long-term and short-term?
The overall goal is to build the New York Open to be the best ATP World Tour event in the United States, with the short-term goal to be the best 250 Series level property on Tour. Our team is determined to win a Tournament of the Year Award, and we are confident that it will happen. But, we are about entertainment and creating a compelling option for people and corporate partners to pick us as THE place to park their dollars. It may take a few years to gain the traction we seek, but we know if we are successful in our outreach to the tennis community, then the core fan will have a save-the-date mindset every year. If we create a fun and exciting experience that transcends tennis, then the non-core person will invest as well.
We start in year one with the largest seating capacity of any 250-level event in the world (6,300 seats), and we will work hard to fill those seats. But the goal is to not only to hit 6,300 in the first few years, but to be able to attract the players and the fans that will allow us to start with two courts at 6,300 seats, and by mid-week, transition to one court and allow our capacity to reach 12,000. A tremendous opportunity that we have with the Coliseum is that we have enough seats to make the math work to procure some of the game's top players. It's exciting to think that we can get there.
And behind all of this is the backdrop of our GF Sports mission to build the sport of tennis here in America. We will continue to provide opportunities for the young players in the USTA Development program by offering wild cards and a major stage to play. And, we are equally passionate about creating a special chance for kids and adults to be exposed to tennis—a game and business that our leadership has made a massive investment to support and help grow.
What sort of promotional nights will you be hosting as part of the New York Open?
In year one, it will be about attracting as many tennis clubs, players and local businesses to attend. So, we will be looking to have promotional nights for these types of groups to come out and experience the tournament. Equally important, we are about providing promotional opportunities for various New York-area charities to raise awareness and hopefully money to help people in need.
At the moment, we are excited over the involvement of the Breast Cancer Research Fund (BCRF) and Play for P.I.N.K., NetGeneration, which is a critically important USTA grassroots program, the Johnny Mac Tennis Project, NYJTL and many more that will come on board over the next several weeks. College night, Valentine's Day Night, etc., all great platforms to create excitement and engagement.
How has the feedback been from the local community?
As of this interview, so far so GREAT! Long Islanders are extremely excited over the prospect of professional tennis being a part of their winter calendar. Tickets are selling, and businesses are interested and want to become involved. We will see in early February how that truly translates, but we think it will prove to be a great success. People really need to see the new NYCB Live, home of The Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. It's definitely not your dad's Cadillac. As we like to say, it's our "Fifth Beatle," and we think that once people experience NYCB Live, then they will want to come back many times.