Wake Forest Tennis Center - Winston-Salem Open
Photos by Conrad Klank, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14
Wake Forest Tennis Center 100 W 32nd St Winston-Salem, NC 27105
Year Opened: 2011
In the many years that I've followed tennis I never would have thought I'd see people tailgating before a tennis tournament. I couldn't believe my eyes! However, this was the first of many indications that the people of North Carolina love their tennis. In a span of just under a year, the vision of a pro tennis tournament came to fruition this August in the inaugural Winston-Salem Open, ATP World Tour 250 Professional Tennis Tournament. The brand new Wake Forest Tennis Center facility includes a nice stadium with a capacity of 3,400, 4 additional match courts, and 8 practice courts, totaling 13 courts located on the beautiful campus of Wake Forest University. The new facility will be utilized by the Wake Forest Men's and Women's Varsity Tennis programs for the rest of the year.
Food & Beverage 4
The deduction of one point goes solely to the lack of variety. The food that was offered was exceptional, and very classy. Specialty drinks included: strawberry lemonade and southern sweet tea priced at $5, and a range of beer and wine were available from $6-$8. In addition to the classic stadium treats, one could get a chicken or salmon salad ($8), a pulled pork sandwich ($8), or even a whole BBQ turkey leg ($6). Great desserts were on hand ranging from Dippin' Dots and ice cream bars to fresh gelato from $4- $6. With the addition of outstanding customer service and a nice food court with live music, the overall food and beverage experience was excellent.
Generally, the atmosphere was wonderful. The facility was very nicely decorated and had a fresh and classy tennis feel. It has a very cozy and quaint feel that larger tournaments could never offer, which I really appreciated. The closeness to the action is incredible. They offered plenty of activities for kids of all ages and some creative promotional events. One included a contest in which fans are encouraged to throw tennis balls from the stands towards trashcans, placed on the courts, and one lucky individual who made it won a prize. In addition, each session included the opportunity for fans to win unique prizes from a raffle. Everyone seemed to really enjoy their time at the tournament. Overall it was a very relaxed but excited crowd of people; clearly amped to have this event in their backyard.
While it's not fair to be too hard on the tournament, there is room for improvement in this category. Even though there are some exceptional choices for pre and post match food and drink, there's nothing very close. It is, however, very worth the short ten-minute drive to downtown Winston-Salem where there is a long list of great one-of-a-kind traditional southern style restaurants located. Unfortunately for me, I was only lucky enough to spend one evening in town so I was only able to experience a few of these. A great little spot called 6th and Vine Wine Bar and Cafe offers a very unique atmosphere and a menu loaded with a range of delicious options. In addition to a great menu, they also offered a very extensive wine selection both by the glass and bottle. The best thing about this local favorite is the outdoor back patio, which featured a neat bar and tons of tables to have dinner under the stars. Every weekend the restaurant hosts great local bands with all kinds of southern flavor. Meals range from $9-$26. If you are able to stay for a few days you are encouraged to try other gems located in the downtown Winston-Salem Arts District such as: Finnigan's Wake (Irish), Hutch &Harris; (Continental), Mellow Mushroom (Pizza), Sweet Potatoes (American), Twin City Chop House (Steakhouse), Downtown Thai & Sushi (Thai), or The West End Cafe (American). If you still have some energy after tennis and dinner and would like to catch a bit of the unique W-S nightlife there are a couple of nearby pubs that have a neat feel. Tate's and Noma are two great places to grab a drink and check out the city. All of these options are located in very close proximity to two of the tournament hotels: The Marriott downtown and the Embassy Suites directly across the street; both being exceptional places to stay. There is a Marriott Courtyard within 5 minutes of the tournament site, however, you would miss out on being so close to all of the added entertainment that W-S has to offer. There are three reasonably close airports if you are flying in for the tournament including Piedmont Triad International Airport (33 miles away), Charlotte/Douglas International Airport (87 miles), or Raleigh-Durham International Airport (100 miles).
When this tournament was in the early stages of planning, the biggest thing that was mentioned was that the tennis fans in Winston-Salem are like no other, and they deserve an event like this because of their love of the game; I couldn't agree more. During the finals of the event you could hear chants of the crowd's favorite player from miles away. I've never seen an entire stadium pulling for one player as much as I did during this match. People made custom shirts, cried out for him to win, and even professed their love aloud in front of everyone; quite a spectacle. I would have to consider these fans to be some of the best I've ever seen in tennis.
The access deserves a full score based on proximity and creativity. The construction of the facility was brilliantly placed in the shadows of BB&T; Field, The Wake Forest football stadium. Since the football season and week of the tournament do not coincide, the tournament is able to fully utilize the amenities in which the football stadium offers including: parking, restrooms, ticket office, concession stands, and hospitality areas. Although I found the parking to be a bit steep at first ($10), but later realized that it was more than worth it when you consider the proximity to the facility. The restrooms are first class all around; extremely clean and festively decorated.
Return on Investment 5
Surprisingly the only way to buy tickets in advance is through their website and then print it out yourself. If you're old school like me and love the feel of a real ticket as opposed to the print out you won't enjoy this. But, it's the only way to go if you want to attend. I would especially appreciate a real card stock ticket for the price of admission (ranges depending on day of the week: $10-58 for grandstand level and $575-625 for lower level box seats only sold in week long increments). Also I didn't really appreciate paying $58 for upper level finals tickets which are tight benches. For most tennis tournaments you get spoiled and expect permanent seats. Maybe for next year they will install something more comfortable. Food and drinks, however, were priced very similarly to other ATP World Tour events of its kind, which is very common. Other souvenirs such as programs ($5), t-shirts ($25), and jackets ($45) were reasonably priced for the quality you receive.
All staff and volunteer members were extraordinarily helpful, professional, and outgoing; everyone from the ticket-takers to the concessionaires to the ball kids to even the tournament director taking the time to stand out front and thank visitors for coming. Overall, the event is tremendously fan oriented and it shows in every aspect.
Whether you're from the Triad, NC area or hundreds of miles away, I would highly suggest visiting this beauty of an event for a relaxed but exciting getaway. The city of Winston-Salem clearly takes great pride in the event and you will undoubtedly notice the effort and have a great tennis experience.