From the late 1940s until the early 1990s, the Sugar Bowl Junior Tennis Tournament was one of the biggest local competitions for the area’s best young players.
Beginning in November, it will be again.
Details on what will be called the Allstate Sugar Bowl tennis tournament were announced Tuesday afternoon during a news conference at New Orleans’ City Park.
The Level 2 tournament will be Nov. 12-14 at the City Park/Pepsi Tennis Center and will feature top players in the 12-and-under through 18-and-under age brackets from the U.S. Tennis Association’s Southern Section.
That nine-state region is the largest of the USTA’s 17 sections, said Louisiana Tennis Association Director Robert Worley. The top 56 boys and girls players in the section can apply to play in the Sugar Bowl tournament, though the draws in each grouping will be limited to the top 32-ranked applicants to ensure the highest quality competition possible throughout the brackets.
“Twenty-five percent of all USTA membership comes from Southern (Section) members,” Worley said. “To give you a football analogy, the Southern Section is to junior tennis what the Southeastern Conference is to football. … This is the highest level tournament the Southern Section sanctions for the full 12-18 (year old) boys and girls. You can’t have it any higher than what you’ll get (here.)”
For Worley, seeing the Sugar Bowl tournament return is a walk down Memory Lane. He played in the event as a youngster, when it was held between Christmas and the Sugar Bowl football game on New Year’s Day.
Before the tournament lost momentum and disappeared, Worley said several generations of players coveted championships in the event, and he recalled a player who had participated in important tournaments throughout the U.S. during her time, but only saved a single trophy as a memento — one from the Sugar Bowl Junior Tennis Tournament decades ago.
Worley clutched that trophy for part of the news conference, and he thanked City Park CEO Bob Becker and its Director of Tennis Patti Todd. He also praised Allstate Sugar Bowl Committee President Charles Lapeyre for wanting to bring another top-flight amateur athletic event to the region.
Allstate Sugar Bowl hosts and sponsors more than 50 annual amateur athletic events to promote tourism and generate economic impact.
Though an economic impact study was not conducted in conjunction with the 2016 Allstate Sugar Bowl Tennis Tournament, Worley said a state junior championship tournament in Lafayette a few years ago generated about $1 million. The 1,000-plus expected visitors to the tournament in New Orleans in November could generate more, he indicated.
Todd said City Park hosts several Level 5 (lower level USTA events) each year but is ready for an event of this caliber. The facility boasts 26 courts (10 clay and 16 hard surface.) She said the 12-and-under players will compete on clay, while the older ones will play on hard courts.
“We’ve been open five years (in the new tennis facility), and you basically have to earn a tournament (of this magnitude),” Todd said. “We have a lot of top-ranked kids who play out of City Park, but they travel all over to play higher-level tournaments. … I kept going to the LTA, because we wanted to accomplish two things.
The City Park/Pepsi Tennis Center is located at 5900 Marconi Drive. For information on the park’s tennis facility, go to www.neworleanscitypark.com.