April 17, 2008
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IOWA CITY, IA — As the Iowa men’s tennis team heads into its final regular-season matches Saturday and Sunday, preparations are taking place for the 2008 Big Ten Championships. The tournament, which will take place April 24-26, is the first major event to be held at the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Complex since its completion in 2006.
Iowa Head Coach Steve Houghton is looking forward to hosting the tournament as there is increased space and comfort for all competing teams, as well as the fans.
“It is a great feeling to be hosting the Big Ten Championships,” said Coach Houghton. “I have been here long enough that I was coaching when Iowa hosted the tournament in 1989 and 1993 but at that time the indoor facility was not as good. In the new facility, the courts, both indoor and outdoor, are in great shape and perfectly suited for hosting a Big Ten event like this. Everyone involved with our program is excited for the event.”
Along with comfort and space, the new facility also offers increased courts for competition. Iowa’s old indoor tennis facility had five courts that led to longer match times. The new indoor area has eight courts, which Houghton believes will help matches finish quicker and run more smoothly, overall. As far as the outdoor competition areas, there are less than the old facility, but at 12 courts there are enough for two matches to be played simultaneously.
“It is a great feeling to be hosting the Big Ten Championships. Everyone involved with our program is excited for the event.”
Iowa Head Coach Steve Houghton
Additionally, the viewing areas are improved both indoor and outdoor for better fan experiences. At the old indoor facility fans were separated from the playing court by a track and netting. Fans were also on the same level located behind the players, which made it hard to see the points. The Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Center indoor fan viewing area is located above and behind the players with a view of all eight courts, which is the ideal location when observing tennis matches.
The facility has not only improved fan and team experiences; it has also improved the look of the Iowa men’s tennis program to future Hawkeyes.
“We lost out on a lot of recruits over the years because the recruits would like the school and the program but the facility would turn them away because so many schools had better facilities,” said Houghton. A lot of kids headed in other directions because of the poor facilities. The new facility has greatly enhanced the look of the program.”
The team has also benefited from improved training areas. The old facility had a fast court speed, which made it hard to understand how to properly construct points. The new courts offer a real court speed for better learning experiences. Houghton believes this helps the kids in the program feel they are involved with a top-notch program in every way rather than having negative opinions about their training facilities.
While the Hawkeyes are currently focused on the 2008 Big Ten Championships, it is just the beginning for major events to be held at the new facility. Iowa will host the 2010 Women’s Tennis Big Ten Championships and will send proposals to be considered for several other events.
Iowa will apply to host the Big Ten Singles Tournament, which is held every November, as well as the ITA Regional Tournament, which is also held every fall. The Hawkeyes have previously not been allowed to apply to host the ITA tournament due to the court surfaces in the old indoor facility, but are now looking forward to that opportunity.
“This facility is probably mid-to-high range of Big Ten facilities,” said Houghton. In terms of functions our facility is absolutely as good as any of them. The new facility allows us to host other events that we could not host before and is opening up a lot of opportunities for the Iowa tennis programs.”
Iowa is currently ranked 53rd nationally with an 11-8 record including 3-5 in conference play. The Hawkeyes will host their final regular-season matches Saturday and Sunday. Iowa will face Purdue, Saturday at 11 a.m. and Illinois, Sunday at noon. Competition will take place at the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Center.
The Hawkeyes will then host the Big Ten Championships, Thursday, April 24 through Sunday, April 26. Competition will begin at 9 a.m. Thursday, 10 a.m. both Friday and Saturday, and noon Sunday. Admission to the event is free all four days.
Click HERE for the Big Ten Network home page.