Arlen Kantarian could be the most important person in the history of US tennis whom you have never heard of.
Kantarian, the former president of Radio City Music Hall and a top NFL executive, is a marketing genius. He was hired as CEO of professional tennis for the USTA from 2000 until he resigned in 2008, working out of the soon to be closed office in White Plains.
Kantarian was a true power broker whose innovations for the open include installing Hawk-Eye, the US Open Series and most significantly turning the event into the Disneyland of tennis tournaments.
Many describe the "Disney philosophy" as a recognition that Disney is not really a theme park, rather it’s a shopping mall with rides as the attraction. Similarly, the US Open is a tennis theme park with the world's best players as the attraction. Come for the tennis, stay for the scene…and bring your wallet.
Kantarian's vision worked, maybe too well which is why the idea of having a US Open with no fans is so troubling for the hosts.
It's a hardship to have a virtual theme park.
Steven Kaplan is the owner and managing director of Bethpage Park Tennis Center, as well as director emeritus of Lacoste Academy for New York City Parks Foundation and executive director and founder of Serve & Return Inc. Steve has coached more than 1,100 nationally-ranked junior players, 16 New York State high school champions, two NCAA Division 1 Singles Champions, and numerous highly-ranked touring professionals. Many of the students Steve has closely mentored have gone to achieve great success as prominent members of the New York financial community, and in other prestigious professions. In 2017, Steve was awarded the Hy Zausner Lifetime Achievement Award by the USTA. He may be reached by e-mail at StevenJKaplan@aol.com.