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Big Ten Tournament to show off tennis’ ‘new’ digs

BY JON FRANK | APRIL 27, 2010 7:30 AM

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Hosting the Big Ten Tournament in women’s tennis in Iowa City was once unfathomable.

All that changed in the spring of 2005, when Recreational Services approved the construction of a new facility on the western campus.

And beginning on Thursday, Recreational Services and the athletics department will finally will host the first women’s Big Ten tennis Tournament since 1994 — an event that serves as the culmination of a year’s worth of planning.

Although the tournament is not revenue-based, it is an opportunity for Iowa to showcase its facilities at the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Complex and enjoy home-court advantage, Associate Athletics Director Paula Jantz said.

The facility has 12 outdoor courts and eight indoor courts, making Iowa eligible to host conference tournaments. Just four years ago in July 2006, the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Complex opened its doors to both student-athletes and the public.

“We treat it as an opportunity where we’re going to invite some people to our home, and we’re going to show them the best time we can,” she said. “When they come to Iowa City and come to the University of Iowa, we want to make sure that we have the best environment, not only for the student-athletes and coaches, but also for the fans.”

The tournament could also serve as a tool to attract future recruits to Iowa, Jantz said.

The conference allotted the athletics department a budget of $15,000 to accommodate traveling teams, prepare the facilities, and advertise the event. The department has contributed funding from its own account to ensure the event’s success, Jantz said.

Recreational Services staff members work year-round to maintain the indoor and outdoor courts. But because of the upcoming tournament, extra measures have been taken.

Workers installed extra bleachers, as well as temporary scoreboards and court scoreboards, said Damian Simcox, the director of athletic facilities. Most of the cost of providing these services comes from Recreational Services’ budget.

The majority of the preparation is complete. However, event management staff is in the midst of coordinating practice schedules for visiting teams.

Aside from the preparation of the courts, a large staff is required to help and inform visitors about schedules and court locations.

“It’s really a joint effort between Recreational Services and the athletics department,” said Michele Conlon, the assistant director for tennis and the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Complex. “Both of them have great crews who help. Whether its setting up umpire’s chairs, putting up new nets, or making sure the wind screens are all set up.”

As the event approaches, athletics department and Recreational Services staff members have met on a weekly basis to coordinate, Conlon said.

Besides the work from the two staffs, the athletics department has recruited volunteers to help keep score in matches and advertise the event.

“We’ll probably have 50 or 60 people who are going to help us with this,” Jantz said. “Folks who will help us with hospitality, folks who will help us with scoring.”

Despite all the fliers and pamphlets promoting the tournament, the best draw is the Hawkeyes, Jantz said.

“The team itself has been a great story for us,” she said. “That’s our biggest ad right there. The fact that they’ll be seeded fourth, that’s great.”

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