Tuesday March 1st, 2016

The world’s second-largest tennis stadium has an all-new look for the 2016 BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Following up on work done at the California site to completely redo—and essentially build new—Stadium 2 in 2014, this year’s March 7-20 tournament will showcase a fresh look at Stadium 1.

While the 16,100 seating capacity remains the same at the stadium, expect those seats to have a different feel. Indian Wells took out the existing seats and replaced them with larger ones, adding cup holders and improving comfort. And they switched them from blue to green in the process.

Julian Finney/Getty Images

“The new green seats and look and feel of the court will definitely be evident,” says Indian Wells CEO Raymond Moore. “We believe that all the renovations really enhance the overall environment of Stadium 1.”

Those other enhancements include removing the railings that denoted sections, dropping the court 28 inches lower to add off-court camera wells and creating a Champions Box and Champions Lounge for VIP guests outside the stadium.

By removing the court itself and dropping the surface 28 inches before repouring the concrete and topping it with the purple court surface, Indian Wells was able to encase television camera wells into the wall in dedicated spaces off the court, a move Moore says the players will certainly notice.

But Indian Wells didn’t just dispose of all those old blue seats. The tennis garden embraced the on-grounds draw by installing the old Stadium 1 seats around the practice courts.

“The practice courts have become a major attraction for our patrons at the tournament, as the courts remain an ideal way to get close to their favorite tennis stars,” Moore says.

On the 54 acres within the Indian Wells gates, the tournament features 20 practice courts and nine match courts. The largely sunken practice courts became an attraction years ago and Indian Wells started placing temporary seating around them, especially as fans would line up at 9 a.m., when the gates opened, to sprint to their favorite practice court. Adding grandstand-like seating to the practice courts this year should help accommodate patrons clamoring for a better view.

Julian Finney/Getty Images

The changes to Stadium 1 follow major renovations to Stadium 2 and the grounds two years ago. Stadium 2 at one time featured simple bleacher seating, but in 2014 it was remade into a full-blown tennis stadium with 8,000 seats and two restaurants with windows overlooking the court—Nobu and Chop House. A third restaurant, Piero’s PizzaVino, sits just outside the stadium.

Teenagers shine as tournament heats up at Indian Wells

Also in 2014, Indian Wells introduced a new entrance on the east side of the grounds, a 19,000-square-foot lighted shade structure with a full bar in the middle of the grounds and the addition of more practice courts.

With all the renovations combined, Stadium 1 holds 16,100 fans; Stadium 2 8,000 fans; Stadium 3 expands to 6,200 with the addition of temporary seats; and Stadium 4 can still convert to hold 3,400 fans.

Moore says ever since Larry Ellison took over as owner of the tournament and the venue, the changes have taken the site on a “journey we have been on to make the tournament and venue the best they can possibly be,” Moore says. Along with the structural changes, all nine match courts feature Hawk-Eye technology.

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“The players always comment on what a relaxed environment the tournament provides, and with the beautifully landscaped, spacious grounds the fans feel the same,” Moore says, adding that with all the amenities, natural beauty and weather at Indian Wells they have created “what amounts to tennis paradise.”

Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, sneakers and design for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.

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