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June 20, 2016
LTA Press Conference - Eastbourne
DAVID TUTT, MICHAEL DOWNEY,
JOHANNA KONTA, OLLY SCADGELL
JOHN DOLAN: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to sunny Eastbourne. (Laughter.)
Welcome to the 2016 Aegon International. We're assured that the weather forecast is going to be better later on in the week, but we'd like to thank all of you for taking time out of your busy schedules to be with us here this morning for this exciting announcement. This tournament is now entering its 42nd year of competition.
But before we introduce our panel of speakers, we would like to show you a little video which encapsulates some of the iconic moments in this tournament's storied history throughout the years.
JOHN DOLAN: Some wonderful images there, I'm sure you'll agree. If I can divert your attention back to the top table, starting from your left we have Councilor David Tutt representing Eastbourne Borough Council. Alongside David we have LTA Chief Executive Michael Downey. Alongside Michael we have Eastbourne's finest and I'm sure a lady who needs no introduction around these parts. She's also Britain's highest-ranked female tennis player in over three decades, Johanna Konta. And finally, at the end of the table, we have LTA director of major events and competitions, Olly Scadgell.
Without further ado, we'd like to turn it over to David to open proceedings.
DAVID TUTT: Thank you, John. Good morning, everybody. The good news is that we have almost finished watering the courts. (Laughter.)
A few welcomes on behalf of Eastbourne Borough Council. I'd like to welcome Michael and Olly from the LTA. It's really good to have you back in town again. We're looking forward to a super tournament here in Eastbourne. To our friends from the media. To Caroline Ansell, who is our local member of Parliament. And to distinguished guests from the business community. We're very, very pleased that you're all able to be here with us this morning.
I'm sure you'd wish me to make a very special welcome to Joanna who is playing her local tournament here in Eastbourne. It's great to see you here. We wish you every success in the week ahead and indeed for Wimbledon.
JOHANNA KONTA: Thank you.
DAVID TUTT: Hopefully I will get some slides coming up. Yes.
Devonshire Park is undergoing real major redevelopment at the moment. It's part of a number of schemes around the town, but it's really the jewel in the crown for us here in the town. It's something we are doing in conjunction with the Lawn Tennis Association. Their help and support on what really is an exciting program is very, very much welcomed.
That's a view you'll see there of an artist's impression of how things will look when the work is completed. You've got the Congress Theatre which you will be familiar next to the Towner Building on the far left, which you'll come through to enter the tournament. But in future there is going to be a new building, Welcome Center, which is replacing the old Congress Restaurant. And that's going to be a glass palace. It's going to give people the opportunity to see -- this is public domain the home of Eastbourne tennis, and people will be able to come through there to the tournament in the future.
We are working with the Lawn Tennis Association to do a number of things: to provide new player changing rooms, a media suite, and shower facilities. And we will have an artist's impression of what they are going to look like in a moment. We are going to provide a new show court and improved court layout. That's going to be achieved by removing the building we are sitting in this morning, because the work we are doing with the new Welcome Center will enable us to remove these temporary exhibition halls which are almost as old as I am and return them to a grass court, give longer runoff for the tennis.
So we have new off-site practice courts and Moira House, and we have a Ã‚Â£44 million scheme in total which is incorporating a cultural quarter as well as a sports quarter for the town. That, as I say, complements a number of other major investments including a retail sector in the Arndale sector. That hopefully is going to give people some retail therapy when they come and enjoy the tennis.
Moving forward, that's a sign of the new player facilities. If you were to look out of the window behind you, you will see on the right-hand side there the pointed building which will remain, but next to that you've got the new player facilities which will be, I hope, a really good boost to the town. And I hope the players will appreciate those, because I know that what we provided in the past, Johanna, has not really been quite up to scratch here in your town here. So we will work really hard on that.
Moving forward, that's the new Devonshire Park redevelopment. You see there at the front we have a new plaza which will be more welcoming. The idea is that it's a bit like South Banks style: you're not quite sure you've arrived but suddenly you're here.
The Winter Garden, which is my favorite architectural building in the town, if you look at it from the back from here it's a splendid building. If you look at it from the front, there are some tired old offices and we will be removing those and restoring it to its former glory.
Going forward, that's the Congress Theatre. We have already refurbished the front of that but starting next January we will have an 18-month program to replace all of the seating to deal with air conditioning and deal with the problem of logistics.
New conference facilities next door to that. The Welcome Center. Artist's impression of those.
Moving forward. That's the Winter Garden. That's what the front of the Winter Garden is going to be like, removing the service road and creating a plaza in front of that.
That's the plaza, the artist's impression of what it will be like in the evenings.
So we are working very, very closely with the Lawn Tennis Association. We really welcome their involvement. We welcome the investment they are putting into Eastbourne, and we look forward -- there is a joint commitment to developing tennis throughout the town. This is not all just about Devonshire Park. The LTA put money into community tennis and Old Town along the seafront. People can play tennis on courts free of charge, and we want to encourage the whole of the Eastbourne community to take that opportunity.
We also thank the Lawn Tennis Association for the joint bid that we have with them for the new DiscoverEngland fund which is operated by VisitEngland and VisitBritain and we hope that will encourage many more visitors to the town.
Thank you very much.
MICHAEL DOWNEY: Thank you, David. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, tennis fans, and players alike. And of course good morning and best of luck to Eastbourne's pride and joy, their very own Jo Konta. I'd like to say with respect to Jo, when I joined the LTA coming over from Canada back on January 6 of 2014, it was actually Jo who was the first person actually to walk into my office and wish me well in my new role. I will never forget that she took the time to wish me well.
This is a very special day for British tennis and for the lovely community and citizens of the Greater Eastbourne area.
As you have seen from the video, nothing can stand still. That includes our major events that lead into the world's best tennis tournament next week in Wimbledon.
However good our events are, and Eastbourne is pretty darn good, they must get bigger and better, or in the competitive world of pro tennis you fall behind. You cannot stand still. Grass court pro tennis must continually invest and innovate to ensure its longevity and credibility as an important surface and circuit in the world of pro tennis.
That's why we have embarked on constant improvement to our major events. It started with the longer grass court season inspired by the bold move that Wimbledon made to shift one week later into the summer and create a three-, not two-week series of grass court events.
This allowed for nearly 10 major events to populate this great nation, allowing fans and recreational players from many communities up and down this great nation to experience firsthand world-class tennis on grass.
The player fields have never been better as more top and developing players realize the importance of perfecting their game on the unique grass court surface.
With a month of major events, we hope to what we call own June and jump-start the important summer season of participation by inspiring young and old, male and female, to pick up a racquet and go hit it.
Stage II of continuous improvement was announced last April with the recombining of Eastbourne, the combining of Nottingham, and the doubling of prize money for our four grass court challenger events starting next year in 2017.
Yes, these enhancements will make our events bigger and better for fans, for sponsors, for communities, and of course for the all-important players.
That said, we held back one very important announcement from last April, since we felt that announcement was best tabled at the start of this iconic Aegon International event located for over 40 years in this beautiful resort town of Eastbourne.
This announcement deserved to be made right here and right now, because it solidifies Eastbourne's rightful place in the world of British and world tennis. In tandem with an impressive investment into the remake of Devonshire Park, we are pleased to announce a new long-term agreement to stage the Aegon International until at least 2026. Yes, ten years, because this partnership between the local community and government, Devonshire Park, and the LTA, has a long tradition of mutual respect and cooperation and a common interest to stage world-class tennis in a world-class theatre on this beautiful southern coast.
The investment the Council of Eastbourne is placing into this venue is monumental and is so deserving of a combined event and the stability of a long-term staging agreement.
By 2026 our Eastbourne event will have broken the half century and will be headed for another 50 years, I'm sure. That's what partnership is all about: moving forward together with common goals and common aspirations.
I will now turn it over to our director of major events, Olly Scadgell, to give more update on what's going to change here at Devonshire Park.
OLLY SCADGELL: Thanks, Mike, and thank you, David. I'd like to start by saying that on behalf of the tournament team here in Eastbourne, which is led by our tournament director, Gavin Fletcher, we are incredibly excited about the positive impact on the tournaments that these changes will have and how it will help us to continue to improve what we offer for both players and fans alike.
In terms of some specifics, next year we will see the same draw size as this year for the WTA events. That is a 32 qualifying draw with a 48 main draw and a 16 player doubles draw but with a Friday start for the qualifying events.
The ATP event will see a 16 player qualifying draw with a 28 main draw and a 16 player doubles draw.
We are extremely confident that with the great improvements that you have already heard about, plus the fact that we will eventually end up with 19 courts across both the Devonshire Park site here and our off-site practice facility, which is actually up from 16 courts in previous years, that we will set up to provide an excellent service to both sets of players and their teams.
It's worth me noting at this point that actually the total number of players we will have next year when the men return to join the women will be the same as the number of players we had when the event was last combined in 2014 but with obviously the addition of the fantastic new facilities that you have already heard about.
I would like now to hand over to Jo, but before I do, I'd like to say how delighted we are to have Jo with us this morning to represent the WTA players. There is no better person than an Eastbourne resident to give us a player perspective on the plans ahead for this great tournament.
Jo, it's over to you.
JOHANNA KONTA: Hi. Good morning, everyone. First of all, I thank everyone for coming. I personally had to run from the car and I got drenched, so I can appreciate all of you getting wet, as well.
I'm very proud to be an Eastbourne resident. There is a charm to this city that myself and my parents we couldn't find anywhere else in the UK, and that's why we call this home. It's where I come back to every time I'm away for lengthy periods of time. It's very much a little haven for me.
It's no secret that last year this time I reached one of my best results in an event, and it made it all that much more special that it was here at home. So not just for the crowds and for my parents but just the whole atmosphere that was created for me here, it really made it a memorable experience.
I mean, I don't think the courts here need any introduction. I think if you speak to any player who has played on these courts, it really is one of the best preparations -- actually, "the" best preparation you could have going into Wimbledon. The quality of the courts here is really outstanding, and so I continue to look forward to playing here in the many years to come.
On behalf of all the WTA players, we'd like to really thank the Eastbourne Borough Council and the LTA for really investing into the magnificent future of this event. It really will be something special for many generations and many young kids coming through to enjoy.
JOHN DOLAN: Well said, Jo.
On that note, would any questions from the media like to be directed to the panel at this point? Any other questions from other guests can be taken offline in the interest of time. I'd like to throw this open to the floor for any questions.
Any questions? Yes, we have one here.
Q. Jo, how are you feeling? Are you feeling fit and ready to go and win this tournament?
JOHANNA KONTA: I'm feeling utterly prepared for this weather. I'm not sure if you're aware of the weather, what it was like in Birmingham last week. I'm definitely well prepared right now. I guess I'm the luckiest player here at this event that I don't go back to a hotel room. I go back home.
Q. Good luck.
JOHANNA KONTA: Thank you.
JOHN DOLAN: Any other questions? No?
Great. Thank you very much. I'd just like to inform you that we have a press release at the back of the room if you'd like further information, which has a lot of the slides that David took you through in his presentation. So if you want to see some of those artist's impressions in detail, they are in that packet and I encourage you to read it. That's in the back of the room.
I'd like the media to stay, please, and Jo to stay here on the top table because Jo will now do her pretournament media availability.
Thank you all very much for coming.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports