Less than a year after some of the best tennis players in the world helped break ground on the Stadium 2 and site expansion project, they’ll return to a completely finished Indian Wells Tennis Garden – and a brand new BNP Paribas Open. “What’s really hit me is the entire site has been transformed,” said IWTG CEO Raymond Moore, a former owner and managing partner of the tournament. “It’s completely different from anything that’s been here for 15 years. I don’t want to be negative of the site before, but it always had this feeling of being unfinished. Now it’s finished.” Finished – and glimmering – to put it simply. The new Stadium 2 seats 8,000 fans, bringing the Garden’s seating capacity to 41,485, a 17% increase from 2013. Tournament officials expect a whopping 420,000 fans to stream through the gates this year, up from a record-setting 382,227 a year ago. “It’s not the brick and mortar, it’s the experience that goes with it,” said tournament director Steve Simon. “And the elements that have to go with it to enhance the brick and mortar. It’s the whole package that makes it special.” While the numbers are staggering – the new stadium also has three permanent restaurants inside of it – the fan experience has been elevated, as Simon noted.
Wi-Fi is now offered throughout the site, some 400-plus Date Palm trees were added, 16 acres of new turf and a new 19,000 square-foot shade structure. “I think when people walk in they are just going to be blown away,” Simon said. “It’s an entirely new venue.” That is abundantly apparent at the East Entry, the newly-created gate where fans get a glimpse of Stadium 2 before entering a bank of the smaller, yet appealing stadiums to their left. It’s all lined with some of the 17,905 shrubs brought in to help keep “garden” a meaningful part of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden name. “The impact this will have on people will be fun to watch,” Simon added. “I don’t think they have any idea the magnitude of what’s been going on.” It has been quite well known that Nobu Indian Wells, the famous Japanese restaurant, Chop House, award-winning steaks and chops and Piero’s PizzaVino, with its Neapolitan pies, would be a part of the expansion, adding world-class food to the world-class tennis. Inside the intimate Stadium 2, general admission ticket holders have an abundance of opportunity to see world-class tennis up-close as some of the 3,000 lower-bowl seats are available to them. Up above, fans experience seamless sight lines and breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains, as well.
After ground was broken on site last year with the help of tournament owner Larry Ellison and former champions Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Ana Ivanovic, Victoria Azarenka and Novak Djokovic, crews from Watkins Landmark Construction worked for 10 months building and readying the new site and expansion pieces. “This is a landmark, a monument in the desert,” said Jody Watkins, the company’s founder. “I think everyone treated it as such. A lot of people did not treat this as punch-the-clock and go to work. There is an artistic element to the work the subcontract people have done on this project. There’s a pride of work that every single person exudes.” Some of that pride was used on the 28,300 linear feet (or 5.35 miles) of quarry tile used on the perimeter walls of Stadium 2. The aesthetic is apparent, but the masterminds behind the project, including Keisker & Wiggle Architects, were thinking beyond that. “The things we would want to design in, it was always, ‘What is the guest experience going to be? What is the player experience going to be?’ ” said Gary Wiggle, the stadium architect. In this instance, bigger really does mean better. “We want to make sure we grow right so we’re not diminishing the experience people are having because we’re packing it so full that it’s no fun being here,” Simon concluded. “A lot of what was built in here was infrastructure, so with more people, you can still have the same experience.”