Newport Casino – Infosys Hall of Fame Open
Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.43
194 Bellevue Ave.
Newport, RI 02840
Infosys Hall of Fame Open website
Year Opened: 1880
Capacity: 3,900 (Bill Talbert Stadium)
The International Tennis Hall of Fame
The Newport Casino, located in the seaside resort city of Newport, Rhode Island, is the home of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. For one week every summer since 1976 it serves as the home of the Hall of Fame Open Tennis Tournament. The tournament is the only grass court tournament played outside of Europe, as well as the only grass court tournament held after Wimbledon. The Hall of Fame Open is annually held the week after Wimbledon. The culmination of the tournament coincides with the induction of the year’s Hall of Fame inductees.
Beginning with the 2022 Tournament, the international information technology company Infosys entered into an agreement to become the title sponsor of the tournament.
Despite the name, the Newport Casino has never been involved with gambling. The word “casino” originally denoted a small country villa, summer house or social club. The Newport Casino, however, does have its origin because of a bet. Per legend, James Gordon Bennett Jr., the publisher of the New York Herald, bet his polo partner, Captain Henry Augustus Candy, that he wouldn’t ride his horse onto the porch of the Newport Reading Room, the city’s premier gentleman’s club of the time. Candy proceeded to ride his horse right through the club, resulting in the revocation of both men’s memberships. Bennett then purchased a plot of land to build his own club. The new club opened in 1880 and soon became the center of fancy Newport society.
Designed to include a theater, tennis courts, bowling alley, storefronts, restaurants, a billiards club, reading rooms and more, it was said by the Newport News “it is doubtful if a more lively place can be found.”
The first U.S. Open Tennis Championships were held here annually until 1914, when the tournament, which had outgrown tiny Newport, was moved to Forest Hills, NY.
In the 1950s the Casino was in danger of demolition to make way for a strip mall. The then-president of the Casino, Jimmy Van Allen, decided that tennis needed a place to honor its greatest figures and history. Thus, the National Tennis Hall of Fame was born, becoming the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1986. The Casino remains today as a fine example of Victorian Shingle Style architecture.
Food & Beverage 5
Concessions are sold in a dedicated area near the entrance to the casino on the northern edge of the complex. Catering for the tournament is provided by local company Russell Morin Catering. The menu is an eclectic mix of arena standards and unique items. The prices are a bit on the high side, but the quality is excellent.
In addition to your standard burgers and dogs, hungry tennis fans can choose from a selection of sandwiches, including a turkey club, a chicken salad and a vegan bahn mi wrap. Grain bowls filled with quinoa and wild rice and arugula or chopped salad made of pepitas, sunflower seeds and roasted vegetables can be augmented with salmon or chicken. Of course, we’re in Newport, known for its high-quality, fresh seafood, so lobster rolls are featured on the menu.
Portable carts scattered throughout the grounds sell Del’s Frozen Lemonade, a Rhode Island favorite and Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream.
Cans of Coca-Cola products are sold at the concession tents. Fans who plan ahead and bring their own re-usable water bottles will be rewarded with several filling stations throughout the facility, where they can refill their bottles at no charge. A separate tent sells adult beverages, including beer from several local breweries, wine and mixed drinks.
You wouldn’t necessarily think of a tennis tournament in the high-society city of Newport at a former social club to be a family-friendly event, but the Hall of Fame Tournament puts on a show with plenty to entertain all members of the family. In addition to the tennis going on in every corner of the facility, there are plenty of activities to keep younger and casual fans entertained.
Right when you enter through the gates of the Casino, you’ll see several tents set up with tennis-themed vendors hawking their wares as well as games to test your tennis skills. A speed serve booth and target booths were popular destinations. You might even see a pro or two trying their luck.
The Casino’s famed horseshoe court is transformed into a recreation area, with cornhole and giant Jenga available for play. Bean bag chairs and tables are scattered throughout the area where fans can take a break from the action and enjoy some refreshments. Of course, the Hall of Fame Museum is located here as well.
Hanging at the Horseshoe Court at Newport Casino, Photo by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey
The action at Stadium Court is geared to entertain tennis aficionados and casual fans alike. Between matches there are games for the kids in attendance, such as the classic “dress up like a pro” race. Interviews with the victors can be heard throughout the Bill Talbert Court, and the players hit autographed balls into the stands. Players have scheduled autograph times during the tournament as well.
Newport is known as one of New England’s premier summer tourist destinations. The Newport Casino is located close to many of the city’s historic attractions, including the Gilded Age mansions, Touro Synagogue (the first synagogue in the United States), and St. Mary’s Church (best known as the site of John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier’s wedding in 1953). The Cliff Walk, a 3.5-mile-long trail which overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and Easton Beach on one side and the Newport Mansions on the other, is just a few blocks from the Casino. Fort Adams State Park and Brenton Point State Park are a short drive from downtown Newport. A drive along Ocean Drive is a must for any visitor.
If visiting Newport from out-of-town, a trip to the Brick Market will certainly be on your itinerary. This mile-long stretch of waterfront from America’s Cup Avenue to Thames Street is ground zero for visitors, as it is loaded with shops, lodging options and restaurants. Visitors can explore the many waterfront wharves teeming with dining options or explore the city’s history. The White Horse Tavern, one of the oldest in the nation, is located nearby.
Newport does have a notable sporting history, as it was the site of the first U.S. Open Tournaments in both tennis and golf, as well as every America’s Cup challenge between 1930 and 1983. Today, the Newport Gulls continue to play baseball at the oldest ballpark in use today, Cardines Field, located about a mile from the Newport Casino.
The Hall of Fame Tournament is one of the highlights of the year in Newport, and the fans turn out in droves throughout the week. The crowd at a tennis tournament consists of more than just the fans who fill the stadium court, as matches take place throughout the grounds all week. The Casino is a small space, and is filled with people, movement and energy from the opening Sunday through Enshrinement Saturday and the championship matches on the final Sunday afternoon.
You’ll see a mix of dedicated tennis fans who travel the world visiting tournaments, local sports fans experiencing one of the highlights of the Rhode Island sporting calendar, and the Newport socialites who appear tailor made to an event such as this. You may not expect this, but a tennis tournament is a family friendly event, with room for younger fans to roam and many activities for the younger or more casual fan to enjoy.
Also impressive is the massive number of people who volunteer to work the tournament in various capacities, from the kids who serve as ballboys and ballgirls to drivers, ticket takers, hospitality specialists and more. It takes more than 200 volunteers to put on a tournament like this, and many locals show up year after year to do their part.
Newport is a city of about 25,000 residents located at the southern tip of Aquidneck Island. Best known as a popular summer destination, this seaside town is famous for its Gilded Age mansions and sailing history.
Located 33 miles south of Providence and 74 miles south of Boston, it is not easily accessed by any highways.
The closest interstate to Newport is I-195, which runs from Providence to Cape Cod about 20 miles north of Newport. Route 24 runs from Fall River down through the upper half of Aquidneck Island. Once the highway ends visitors will navigate Route 114 into the city.
The Casino is located on Bellevue Avenue, just blocks from the city’s historic Gilded Age mansions, Cliff Walk, and beaches. The popular Brick Market, filled with fine waterfront restaurants and attractions, is about a mile from the Casino. More information about things to do and lodging options in Newport can be found here.
The entire Casino grounds comprises less than an acre, and there is plenty of action crammed into seemingly every corner of the facility. With the big crowds in attendance, getting around can be challenging. There is no permanent seating around the side courts, so fans will stand around the perimeter of the courts or take in the action from the adjoining gazebo.
The Stadium Court, named in honor of American Hall of Famer Bill Talbert, contains a large grandstand on the south side of the court, and more intimate courtside seating on the other three sides. These individual seats are much coveted, especially those covered seats which provide a shady spot on a hot summer Rhode Island day. The south stands were recently renovated and consist of comfortable plastic stadium seats.
Bill Talbert Stadium, Photo by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey
Return on Investment 3
Tickets to seats in the south stands of Bill Talbert Court start at $38 for the early rounds of the tournament, with courtside chairs starting at $59 and shaded box seats starting at $99. Tickets increase to a range of $95-$205 for induction Saturday. You can purchase a ticket for the entire tournament, ensuring the same seat all week long, starting at $373.
Tickets to the Brooks Brothers Brunch, where you can watch the Hall of Famers present the new HOF inductee (for 2022 it is Lleyton Hewitt) with their Hall of Fame blazer while enjoying lunch and mimosas in the fabulous horseshoe plaza before heading to tournament semifinals from the south court chairs, are sold for $350 each.
Parking is free on-street in the area around the Newport Casino. Good luck finding a spot, though, and pay attention to street signs for restrictions. Your best bet is to park at the Newport Gateway Visitors’ Center, located across the street from Cardines Field about a mile from the Newport Casino. Pick up a validation ticket inside the center, jump on the free RIPTA #67 trolley which departs the center every 20 minutes, and you can park all day in Newport for just two dollars. You can even leave your car there while you explore the city. You’d be hard pressed to find a better deal than that in Newport!
Tickets to the Infosys Tournament also allow for admission to the Hall of Fame Museum.
Youth clinics are held in conjunction with the tournament for local youth tennis players. The kids get to play right alongside the pros!
The accessibility of the players to the fans may be a surprise to someone who hasn’t experienced a tournament like this. Players will sign autographs after matches and hit autographed balls into the stands. Virtually every child in attendance carries around a giant tennis ball filled with player autographs throughout the tournament.
A pair of statues overlook the famous Horseshoe Court (which is available to be rented, by the way). The founder of the Hall of Fame, Jimmy Van Allen, is memorialized in one corner, while a statue of Frederick Perry stands at center court. This statue is a replica of the one that stands at Wimbledon.
The tournament’s commitment to sustainability and renewable products deserves an extra point.
While holding a grass court tournament the week after Wimbledon may not seem like the best timing for a successful event, the Hall of Fame Tournament has remained a highlight of the Rhode Island sporting calendar for close to a half-century. Combining an intimate setting, small-town vibe in a summer destination spot and the history that comes with combining a tournament with the annual Hall of Fame Induction, the Infosys Hall of Fame Tennis Tournament is a Stadium Journey well worth the trip.
Follow Paul Baker’s stadium journeys on Twitter and Instagram @PuckmanRI.