Indian Wells 2013 – A New Experience

When it comes to sport production, you can typically count on long days; but when you’re surrounded by people who are passionate about their work and committed to excellence, those long days are far less painful – even when Novak Djokovic doesn’t get off the court until 2:30am.

For 12 years, I’ve enjoyed great relationships like these at the US Open in late August and September. For the past two weeks, I was fortunate enough to play a small role in another high-profile tennis production at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California – featuring an equally talented team focused on growing the tournament through enhancing the fan experience.

In an amazing comeback, after seven months away from the sport, Rafael Nadal won the 3-set Final on Sunday over Juan Martin del Potro. The man is a machine. In his first three tournaments back, on clay, he won two and reached the Final in Chile. Indian Wells featured Rafa’s return to the hard-court, and the knee held-up brilliantly, with wins over Federer and Berdych on the way to the Final. [2013 BNP Paribas Open Results]

My job as announcer/emcee at Indian Wells was similar to the work I do in Flushing, with a lot more emphasis on emcee. At the Open, I’m typically locked in a booth high above Arthur Ashe Stadium announcing the players, hard-selling their bios, and lending voice to giveaways and sponsor mentions. When I’m not working the stadium audience, I’m voicing grounds-announcements, videos, and anything that requires narration.

As the Stadium-2 Emcee in Indian Wells, my responsibilities were simplified: Bring the players on the court, deliver their bios, handle sponsor mentions during sit-downs, interview the winner on court post-match, rinse and repeat. With a stadium one-third the size of Arthur Ashe, for me the experience was amazing. Fans are right on-top of the action. The players are within spitting distance. During great matches, you can actually feel the intensity…every “Vamos!”, every frustrated scream, every argument with the chair umpire, all within earshot. You can’t help but absorb the drama. As a tennis fan, these are the best settings to experience the game.

It is always exciting to be a part of an event seeing annual growth and forward momentum – a truth that defines the BNP Paribas Open. This year, players saw an increase in prize money (click here to read my take on the controversial issue). Next year, fans will enjoy a brand-new $70-million, 8-thousand seat Stadium-2, featuring full scale music and production during matches. Indian Wells is committed to growth, to its fans and to living-up to its reputation as “the 5th Grand Slam.” It is humbling to have had the opportunity to experience that reputation first-hand, as a member of a truly dedicated sport production team.

A special thanks to Dee Dee Felich, Erin Wolfe, and Andrew Krasny for the opportunity. Thank you Todd Noonan for the long-hours, hard-work, amazing bios, and guiding hand – you are a true professional. To Patti Jacobson, Chrissy Ormond, Tara Lilley, Donny Felich and the “Estrogen Tank,” thanks for your patience, guidance, support and laughs. You deliver a top-shelf show. Thanks for being gentle when I had the keys to the castle. To Kondo Simfukwe and Lisa Vasquez, I hope we get to work together again – thank you for the long-hours and commitment to fans on Stadium-3.

Here’s to the 2014 BNP Paribas Open!