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La Costa Losing Tennis Event

Women's Acura Classic will end in 2007, with owners selling it to WTA Tour because of venue.

August 16, 2006|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

A longtime summer tradition -- professional women's tennis at the highest level on the grounds of La Costa Resort and Spa -- will be ending after next year's tournament.

Tournament owners Raquel Giscafre and Jane Stratton of Promotion Sports, Inc., announced Tuesday that they had sold the event to the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour.

Attendance was not the issue. Organizers said 83,054 fans attended the recently completed Acura Classic, up 8.1% from last year. It has been held at La Costa for the last 16 years.

Instead, the problem was finding a venue able to accommodate presumed growth of the tournament.

"We've been unable to find a facility in San Diego County that's appropriate to accommodate the size of the tournament," Giscafre said. "We looked and there's nothing here. So, it's been a long ride and a very fun one."

They started in September 1984 with a $50,000 Ginny of San Diego at Morley Field, won by Debbie Spence, who took home $7,000.

The tournament later was moved to La Costa, where this year, prize money for the Tier I event, one level below the Grand Slams, was $1.34 million and champion Maria Sharapova won $197,000.

Cincinnati may end up filling La Costa's spot, though it may not be a direct replacement. The WTA and its chief executive, Larry Scott, are working on a revised and streamlined tour schedule, popularly known as "Road map to 2010."

Scott would like the "pieces to be in place" by the first quarter of 2007, with the major parts of the plan to be implemented in 2009.

"Cincinnati will very much be a factor in our future plans for the summer," Scott said Tuesday, adding that organizers envisioned a combined men's and women's event. "...They're absolutely going to apply for a tournament in the future, on the summer circuit."

Scott had been in Montreal, apologizing for the withdrawals of several big-name players from this week's tour stop there.

"I've got an absolute laser focus on the future, how we're going to restructure some things ... where the top players have fewer tournaments they have to commit to, but their appearance is going to be more guaranteed and more dependable," he said.

Though Scott spoke highly of the San Diego market and the possibility of another event being held there, Acura officials will be aiming to leave on a high note in 2007.

"We'll try to have the best tournament ever," Giscafre said. "With the attitude that this is the last episode of 'Friends.' "

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