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  • Conrad Klank

Indian Wells Tennis Garden - BNP Paribas Open

Photos by Conrad Klank, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.71

Indian Wells Tennis Garden 78200 Miles Ave Indian Wells, CA 92210

Year Opened: 2000

Capacity: 16,100


Playing in the Garden

The Indian Wells Tennis Garden is the home to the annual BNP Paribas Open Professional Men's and Women's tennis tournament. Located in Indian Wells, California, about two hours east of Los Angeles, this 54-acre facility plays host to the top ATP and WTA players from around the world for two exciting weeks in March. The BNP Paribas Open is one of the prestigious ATP Masters 1000 and WTA Premier 5 events, one of only three of its kind in the United States along with Miami and Cincinnati. Backed by a small group of tennis and sports enthusiasts, this facility has quickly grown into the incredible event that it is today.

The most eye-catching feature, by far, of this beautiful park, is the 16,100-seat Stadium Court 1, which is the second largest tennis specific stadium in the world, second only to Arthur Ashe Stadium at the US Open.

In addition to the impressive capacity of Stadium Court 1, it also features 44 luxury suites, a full media workroom, and the players� locker rooms and restaurant. After Stadium Court 1, there are seven additional smaller temporary stadiums, which host the other tournament matches. Outside of watching tennis, there are a number of other great things to do around the grounds, ranging from eating and drinking, to demoing racquets, to shopping the boutiques, to even getting a free massage. Additionally, this is one of the most fan friendly events in the world with improved seating and visibility around the practice courts and mini soccer field, as well as the new updated digital practice schedule board located right outside of court 3.

Food & Beverage 5

If you've never been to a tennis tournament you'll be in for quite a treat as the food offerings are quite different than one would expect at a baseball or football game. If you're expecting concession windows, ice cream carts, and beer guys patrolling the aisles, you may or may not be pleasantly surprised with the incredible variety and quality that is offered at professional tennis tournaments, especially at this one.

Not that the typical stadium fare of hot dogs, peanuts, popcorn, and nachos won't be found here, it's just that stadium food is taken to a whole new level. Depending on what you're in the mood for, you could have an authentic gyro, a footlong loaded with BBQ beef brisket, pizza, specialty bistro sandwiches, and even fish and chips, just to name a few of the unique food offerings found at the BNP Paribas Open.

Once you've found something that tickles your fancy from the food court, find a place to get a refreshment, a little shade, and a spot to eat. There are two large beach-themed Corona bars, and a massive Don Julio bar with plenty of shaded tables and chairs at the center of the food court. If you're looking for a little more elbow room than your seat but don't want to miss a second of the action on the court, grab a couple of adirondack chairs in the Corona Plaza where the top three matches are being shown on the large video boards with stats and scores scrolling across the bottom.

Atmosphere 5

As with food and beverage, the atmosphere at professional tennis tournaments is very unique. One moment you can be courtside engrossed in a fantastic third set match biting your fingernails, the next you can be socializing with friends in the food court. There are a number of different atmospheres within the grounds of the tournament depending on the setting.

There are numerous massive murals of tennis players and images all around the buzzing and excited grounds. While it is important that you stay quiet while play is going on, don't underestimate the amount of excitement that shows at this big time tournament.

Make sure to stake out some first or second row seats for an outer court match, so that you can get the up close and personal feel that is so special about these tournaments where you don't have to have a ticket to the outer courts.

Additionally, in the evenings, live music, interviews, player autograph sessions, and trivia are available around the grounds.

Neighborhood 5

While there isn't much to do in walking distance of the tournament, there are a ton of wonderful places to eat, drink, and things to do just a short drive away. There are two areas that I recommend, first is El Paseo where there are easily over a hundred places to visit. This upscale shopping and dining area is the perfect place to visit before or after going to the tournament or for a break in the action. There is something here for every budget and taste bud. Don't plan to do much shopping later in the evening as most of the stores close rather early while the restaurants stay open a little later, so shop first, eat second.

If you like fresh seafood, make sure to eat at Pacifica. For unique specialty pizza, Wolfgang Puck Pizza Bar. And for a steak, you have to go to Mastro's Steakhouse. This is typically the best area for player spotting so keep your eyes peeled for your favorite player getting a bite to eat. Lastly, even if you aren't a big art buff, make sure you stop in at one or two of the many art galleries in the area.

If you're willing to drive just a bit further (15-20 minutes), I recommend visiting the North Palm Canyon shopping district. Similar to El Paseo, you will find a number of great shopping and dining options, however the things you will find here won't be nearly as upscale, but much more unique. Be sure to get an omelet for breakfast at Pinocchio in the Desert, have a burger at Hamburger Mary's for lunch, pick up some souvenirs at Just Fabulous, have some authentic chicken parmesan at Kalura Trattoria Italiana or authentic Mexican at Maracas, and get your picture taken with the giant statue of Marilyn Monroe.

As you can see, there's a ton to do in the Palm Desert/Palm Springs area, so don't forget to plan an extra day or two just to be a tourist.

When you're looking for a hotel, be sure to book early as rooms go fast with only a limited number of resorts available. There are some great options near both entertainment areas mentioned. The top recommendation in Palm Desert which not only has a tremendous tennis facility to get a work out during your stay, but also typically hosts player exhibitions and practice sessions while the tournament is in town, the La Quinta Resort. If you're interested in relaxing more away from the tournament crowds, the Renaissance in Palm Springs is highly recommended with a tremendous pool deck.

Fans 5

Tennis fans are some of the best sports fans in the world. It's not uncommon to see fans travel all over the world to follow their favorite players. Since tournaments are played in so many places, it takes a lot of dedication to follow the sport, and tennis fans don't disappoint as they have showed up in record numbers. The 2013 BNP Paribas Open set a new tournament attendance record of 382,227 as well as new single day and night session records on the middle Saturday of the tournament.

Access 4

Getting to the tournament from out of town, you have a few options. If traveling by air, the nearest airports available are Palm Springs International Airport (17mi), San Bernardino International Airport (70 mi), Ontario Airport (87mi), and Los Angeles International Airport (139mi). For the experience with the least hassle, Palm Springs International Airport would be the best choice. With shuttles and taxis available to transport you to your nearby hotel, this would be the best route. However, it will be without a doubt the most expensive and probably not the most convenient as far as flight times. If you decide to fly into one of the other airports, rent a car and drive yourself to the tournament.

The key to saving yourself the most trouble is to make sure you arrive to the tournament early to avoid the troublesome traffic. With only a couple of roads leading to the tournament site, congestion is extremely likely and time consuming. The next issue is the long walk from the parking areas that is probable in delaying you further from entering the tournament. Parking right next to the tournament grounds in the official general parking is $15 per day. The biggest thing to keep in mind here is just to give yourself extra time to drive to the tournament and get into the grounds, as it can possibly be a long process. If possible, I highly recommend booking one of the nearby hotels, which offer a shuttle to and from the grounds for a much more stress free day.

When it comes to the access inside the tournament grounds, it's important to keep in mind that with such large numbers in attendance, it is likely that restrooms will back up and form lines. Like at a basketball game, to beat the halftime restroom crowds, you head for the stands a few minutes before the half, it might be wise to try that strategy here. Also, I recommend avoiding the lines for the restrooms located in Stadium Court 1. Instead, search out the restroom stands located around the grounds.

Lastly, it is important to be patient when trying to attend a match in one of the smaller stadium courts around the grounds, especially during a highly touted matchup as crowds will quickly form and congestion at the entrances is possible.

Return on Investment 4

As with any professional tennis tournament, it has to be understood that there really aren't too many "economical" options. Plain and simple, it's expensive. Having said this, for the money, a ton of entertainment is provided. In comparison to other sporting events where you get to see the best in the world it is about on par if not a slightly better return on investment. Keeping in mind that a single ticket to any given day session will entitle you to see at least 3 matches and around 7 hours inside the gates, this is far superior to seeing one game of another sport for around the same price.

The same concept goes for the food and beverage. While it can be expected that prices will be slightly higher, more variety and better products are also on hand when compared to a more mainstream sporting event.

For tickets to the BNP Paribas Open, the cheapest and most convenient options are available directly through the tournament's ticket office. In addition to daily tickets, they also offer different kinds of mini packages for any number of people and days, as well as hotel packages. One of the great perks included in select packages is access to the VIP, air-conditioned, Emirates Club Lounge.

Extras 5

This tournament is filled to the brim with extras that tennis fans just aren't used to. The spectacular views from any vantage point of palm trees, desert, and mountains are breathtaking. The official instant replay technology that's available on all eight match courts, the most of any tournament in the world. The unique mini soccer field and adjacent outdoor player-dining patio, perfect for spotting your favorite player having fun off the court. Along with the views outside of the grounds, the beautiful landscaping inside the grounds makes for a wonderful combination for the backdrop to the action on the court.

Final Thoughts

Top 5 things to make sure you do while at The BNP Paribas Open at The Indian Wells Tennis Garden:

  • Smell the lemon trees

  • Go to the top of the stands to get the best views of the desert

  • Get autographs at the soccer field and practice courts

  • Watch a match in every stadium court for a different atmosphere

  • Shop the boutiques and exhibits

Things to keep in mind when attending The BNP Paribas Open:

  • Be sure to pack a small bag to take into the tournament to store your extra long sleeves and long pants since the weather varies and it will undoubtedly get cool in the evenings in the desert (small bags are allowed in the tournament after a brief inspection, of course)

  • Bring a camera and autograph pen (necessities when your favorite player is on the practice courts)

  • Since spring forward occurs during the middle weekend of the tournament, it is wise to attend the evening sessions during the second week (the tournament grounds are so beautiful that you'll want as much daylight as possible to be able to enjoy it)

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