If it feels like Indian Wells Tennis Garden had an overnight growth spurt that's because it did. The home of the BNP Paribas Open, the biggest tournament outside the Grand Slams, has unveiled a brand new second stadium that boosts crowd capacity by 17 percent. With the expansion, tournament organizers hope to draw 40,000 more people to watch Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, and Ferrer battle for a $1 million prize. This crowd could be the biggest outside of the U.S. Open: The capacity of the stadium now exceeds both the French Open and Wimbledon.
If that wasn't impressive enough, the whole expansion has been constructed, outfitted, and spit-shined in 10 months thanks to a push from owner Larry Ellison.??The project was born in 2012, when Ellison asked a few friends to come to the tournament and they were turned away because the stadium was at capacity. "Larry wanted to know what the story was and I said, 'You know, we have ordinances here and will get shut down by fire department and police once we're at capacity," recalls Raymond Moore, the tournament's CEO. "He asked, 'How do we cure that?' And we've been working every day since."
Plans were quickly drawn and Ellison gave the final go-ahead for the unprecedented expansion near the end of 2012. Presented with a five-year plan, he said he'd only front the money if the renovation was completed in 12 months. So construction began on March 17, the last night of the 2013 tournament, with earth-movers firing up on center field during Moore's closing speech.
The revamped stadium is massive, with 8,000 seats taking up some 183,626 square feet. "It's about the size of a Loews – so it's big – but it doesn't feel like a stadium," says Gary Wiggle, the architect on the project. "The seating for this is extremely intimate. There are even glass guard rails so everyone has great line of sight." And fans who get up from their seats will find plenty of amenities.
Indian Wells now has a 19,000-square-foot steel shade structure that covers three food vendors and a new bar, a 16.2-acre garden, some 696 trees, and three new dine-in restaurants, including a Nobu (Nobu Matsuhisa's esteemed sushi chain), a woodfire pizzeria, and Chop House, home of the 48-ounce Tomahawk rib chop. Sit-in dining is a first for tennis stadiums and Wiggle went to great pains to give diner's a view of the action with a long row of outward-facing window seats, tiered booths, and television screens at every blind spot – just in case.
The expansion will also make the Paribas Open the most high-tech tournament in the world. It's the first to have the Hawkeye system installed on all nine courts and site-wide public wi-fi capable of allowing 25,000 people to download the event-specific app at once. "We've laid miles and miles of cable and increased our bandwidth," says Moore. "This stadium has the Larry Ellison stamp on it."
[More information: John McEnroe will play Jim Courier at Stadium 2's groundbreaking on March 1, The BNP Paribas Open officially starts on March 3. You can buy tickets here.]