All eyes were on the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center Sunday, June 1, as Long Island Tennis Magazine and New York Tennis Magazine hosted the Second Annual New York Tennis Expo. One may have mistaken that the U.S. Open was in town, as cars lined the streets and the National Tennis Center’s parking lots filled to capacity, while shuttle buses escorted patrons to the facility. The Second Annual New York Tennis Expo was designed as a grassroots tennis movement for the New York tennis community, and it brought out the largest crowd ever for such an event, with just shy of 3,400 attendees on hand throughout the day.
The buzz for the Second Annual New York Tennis Expo began in late 2013 as a chance to create a greater platform for the businesses that support both Long Island Tennis Magazine and New York Tennis Magazine. The origin of the Expo was a grounds for the local tennis community to join together to help further grow the sport. Marketing for the event spanned various forms of media, including print advertising, Web ads and promos, social network postings, online radio shows, e-mail blasts and publicity via word-of-mouth throughout the local tennis community.
The event offered something for everyone, as participation was strong from all areas of the sport, from 10 & Under Tennis, to juniors, to high school and college players, and even Special Olympians. Attendees had the chance to win raffles to famous resorts such as Sea Colony, to tickets to the 2014 U.S. Open and to the prestigious “Party With the Pros” event the week before the U.S. Open. Lining the main hallway of the National Tennis Center were 60 of the sport’s top exhibitors, displaying everything from tennis apparel, training aids, new tennis apps and the latest rackets, to programs and clubs, and summer camp offerings. Also on hand was world-renown Tennis Coach Nick Bollettieri at the IMG Academy booth, posing for pictures and signing copies of his newest book, Changing the Game.
"In my travels across the country, this event is one-of-a-kind,” said Bollettieri. “I had a great day at the Second Annual New York Tennis Expo, meeting fans and chatting with attendees and look forward to the same next year."
Also part of the event were two informative Speaker Sessions. The first Session, "The Road to College Scholarships,” featured Bollettieri headlining a panel of the area’s top coaches, that also featured emcee and Fox News Political Analyst Sean Hannity. The second Session, "Taking Your Game to the Next Level," was again headlined by Mr. Bollettieri, as panelists discussed the mental and physical sides of tennis. Panelists included Jay Harris, general manager of Sportime Roslyn; Steven Kaplan, owner of Bethpage Park Tennis Center; Lawrence Kleger, director of the John McEnroe Tennis Academy; Whitney Kraft, director of tennis at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and director of player operations for the U.S. Open; Xavier Luna, director of junior tennis for the Advantage All-City Junior Tennis Programs; Sam Miller, founder of ProgressiveWellnessLLC; Lonnie Mitchel, head men’s and women’s tennis coach at SUNY Oneonta; Eric Rebhuhn, head men's tennis coach for St. John’s University; and former Queens College Coach Chris Tasso. At the conclusion of the sessions, attendees flocked to the speakers for autographs and photos.
"It is a great Expo, and great for exposure,” said Sam Miller, founder of ProgressiveWellnessLLC. “My favorite part is that everyone is chill, nice and willing to share what they are all about. I will definitely return next year."
The three indoor courts that comprised The Activity Zone were packed all day long, as kids and adults alike took part in on-court activities. From the 10 & Under Tennis demo, to the Speed Serve Booth, the “Beat the College Player,” and Hit for Prizes Court, all were hot spots as DJ CMNY was spinning music as Sportimes mascot “Tennis the Menace” introduced himself and entertained the youngsters in attendance.
“Thank you to Long Island Tennis Magazine and New York Tennis Magazine for organizing this terrific event,” said Elliot Jenkins of ZOGOtennis. Dave Berman, also of ZOGOtennis, said, “We got some incredibly positive feedback from the hundreds of tennis players we spoke to, and we couldn't be more excited to get our App out to the tennis community here in NYC."
With the gorgeous spring weather, another main highlight was the outdoor Kids Zone, featuring carnival games, snow cone and popcorn machines, and an inflatable hockey station featuring an appearance by the New York Islanders Ice Girls. On the roof of the National Tennis Center was the Parent/Child Sports Deck for open play on mini-courts, where kids played friendly games against one another, and families shared in matches as well on the NTC’s sport courts.
"The staff of Long Island Tennis Magazine and New York Tennis Magazine are so sincere and do an amazing job,” said Peter Kaplan, founder of Peter Kaplan's Westhampton Beach Tennis Academy. “I love seeing everyone here with great energy. I wouldn't miss it!"
The success of the Second Annual New York Tennis Expo has jump-started ideas and an outpouring of requests for a third event, as plans are already underway for next year’s event, as Long Island Tennis Magazine and New York Tennis Magazine continue to grow the game at the grassroots level.
“This year's New York Tennis Expo was innovative, inclusive and lively,” said Steve Kaplan, owner of Bethpage Park Tennis Center. “There was something for everyone to enjoy. Every young player I saw had a huge smile on their face. This Expo truly grows the game, and I was very happy to have been a part of this record-setting event.”
Credit all photos to Calvin Rhoden and Samantha Sklar