The Future of the 2021 BNP Paribas Open

By: Chris Lewis
Due to COVID-19, the BNP Paribas Open has been postponed; new dates have yet to be announced.

On December 29, 2020, representatives of the BNP Paribas Open announced that the tournament, which was originally scheduled to be held on March 8-21, 2021, would be rescheduled to a new date.

After consulting thoroughly with California’s state and local health authorities, Larry Ellison, owner of the BNP Paribas Open, decided it was in the best interests of players, broadcasters, advertisers, employees and fans to postpone the tournament—which was cancelled altogether last March when the pandemic began in full force—due to continuous concerns with COVID-19.

As of early January, a new date for the tournament had not yet been decided, but representatives appeared to be clear that it would still be hosted this year.

“The tournament is proactively working with the ATP and WTA Tours, as well as title sponsor BNP Paribas, to confirm dates later in the year to hold the event,” tournament representatives mentioned in a statement published on BNPParibasOpen.com. “Details will be released in the near future as plans are finalized.”

“As soon as the new dates are confirmed, the tournament will provide more information to current ticket holders, including credit and refund options,” the statement continued. Safety First
Known as the “fifth major”, the BNP Paribas Open has taken a variety of measures to ensure everyone involved with the tournament is as safe as possible once the tournament is actually contested. First, it has implemented various social distancing protocols, based on present guidelines. In addition, an array of safety precautions will occur at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, each of which will be focused on attendants’ health, above all else.

“As we prepare to host the BNP Paribas Open, our team at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden has one priority above all else: to ensure the health and safety of everyone involved with the event—fans, players, sponsors, media, vendors and staff,” tournament representatives stated on BNPParibasOpen.com.

“With that as our guiding principle, we will continue to consult with a committee of expert advisors that includes tennis industry stakeholders, medical professionals, government officials and safety professionals to make the best decisions possible in the lead-up to the event,” tournament representatives added during their online statement. The tournament representatives stressed that they realized the on-site experience will be altered considerably once the tournament is held—alterations that will require cooperation from every attendant.

A winner of two ITF singles titles, Brandon Nakashima was a student at the University of Virginia, where he compiled a 17-5 singles record and a 20-3 doubles record, was named the ACC Freshman of the Year and received All ACC First Team and All ACC Academic Team honors. And then, after just one highly successful semester, he decided to forego the rest of his eligibility and become a professional.

“We are committed to creating an environment that will allow everyone to feel safe and secure in attending the BNP Paribas Open; it is our collective responsibility to help keep each other safe,” tournament representatives added on BNPParibasOpen.com.

As evidenced by the event’s typical attendance statistics (up to 450,000 fans have been attending the tournament annually lately) and prize money (more than $17 million), the BNP Paribas Open has not only become one of the most popular tournaments in tennis, but in all sports, likely a primary reason why Ellison had no choice but to reschedule it.

“We’re proud that the BNP Paribas Open has become a favorite of players and fans alike,” tournament representatives said on BNPParibasOpen.com. “But we know that right now, it’s not about us; it’s about what we can do to ensure that everyone can feel safe and [is] excited to return to Tennis Paradise.”

In a little over ten years, from 2006 (another year in which the study was conducted) to 2017, total gross economic impact increased by more than $187 million. This increase is even more noticeable when the influence of Indian Wells Tennis Garden’s renovations (on the 2017 BNP Paribas Open) are considered, raising gross economic impact to $466,943,364.

Not to mention, the total fiscal impact of the tournament on the Coachella Valley was estimated at roughly $19 million, according to The George Washington University study; this total was generated through tax revenues for city and county governments, particularly through property and sales taxes, along with Transient Occupancy Tax.

In addition, nearly 440,000 fans attended the tournament in 2017, a total that has since regularly risen to approximately 450,000 annually. Eighty-seven percent of all attendees had traveled from outside of the region, a primary factor of the tournament’s high gross economic impact.

With these figures in mind, the economic losses, directly resulting from the cancellation of the 2020 BNP Paribas Open, were detrimental—likely even higher than the $406 million that was generated in 2017. Therefore, Ellison likely has no choice but to host the tournament later this year, especially as other ATP and WTA tournaments have remain scheduled for the first few weeks of 2021.

Although Ellison’s decision may not be known for months, there’s no doubt about this: the BNP Paribas Open’s return to the tennis circuit will be wholly welcomed by worldwide fans, along with Coachella Valley residents, as Tennis Paradise’s comeback can’t begin soon enough.