Playing indoors is nothing new to the Bradley women’s tennis team. Most of the team’s home matches this season have been played at the Clubs at River City, an indoor tennis facility. But for the first time ever, the tennis team will host the “Coliseum Classic,” as it bring its competition to the Renaissance Coliseum.
“I hope people recognize what a unique event this is going to be,” Bobby Parker, associate athletic director for communications and operations, said. “We’re not aware of anyone ever hosting a dual tennis match inside their basketball arena, so I hope people want to see the novelty and want to support the tennis program.”
The Coliseum court, which normally hosts the volleyball and women’s basketball teams, experienced a makeover Thursday as the hardwood court was topped with synthetic panels across the entire floor.
By playing the event in the coliseum, Parker and head coach Matt Tyler said they expect to host over 1,000 fans with hopes of breaking the collegiate tennis attendance record of 1,032 from 2016 in a match between Florida and Georgia.
“Most of the time, our highest attendance numbers are 40-50 people on a great day,” Tyler said. “To have several hundred, hoping for over 1,000 is maybe a little intimidating, but at the same time, what a cool experience. Very rarely do tennis players get to play in front of a crowd like that.”
Parker said he initially came up with the idea for the indoor meet while walking along the coliseum concourse in January. Once he and head coach Matt Tyler began discussing the plan, Tyler found Flex Court International, and from there, he said everything seemed to fall into place.
“You kind of get excited about an idea, and pieces came together fairly quickly,” Parker said. “There was a weekend that presented itself as a good opportunity, and the ball just kind of started rolling pretty quickly.”
The planning for the Classic has taken less than two months, which made the last couple months of the season difficult for Tyler. However, he said it will ultimately make the Classic more rewarding.
“I wish we would have had like, a year, to plan for it because it’s been kind of manic,” Tyler said. “We did it on a really tight timetable, which I think has actually been good because we’ve been able to create a lot of excitement … It’s not announcing it a year ago and people forgetting about it. We’ve made this big push of making [it] visible for everyone.”
Tyler said he gives Parker “99 percent of the credit” for the project, saying that Parker has organized most of the marketing initiatives and the rest of the logistics. Parker said he’s been doing the best he can to organize an event that has never previously been done at Bradley.
The court surface is markedly different than anything the women have ever played on, too. Tyler said the surface is almost like “a cheese grater,” which will limit the amount sliding and will create a slower pace of play.
Though the court surface will affect the play of the team, senior Ashley Thai said the biggest hurdle will be mentally handling the sheer number of fans.
“I am really excited but also extremely nervous,” Thai said. “As tennis players, unless you’re going pro, you’re never going to get to experience anything like this, so I don’t think any of us are prepared for what we’re going to be feeling.”
Tickets for the event are free to students, faculty and staff, and you can purchase a” VIP experience” for $100, which includes preferred seating, admittance to the hospitality room, catered breakfast and dinner and an hour of court time from March 23 to 26.
The Braves play St. Louis at 9 a.m. and IUPUI at 6 p.m tomorrow.