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Originally printed in the Sumter Item

When the Palmetto Pro Open comes to Palmetto Tennis Center in May, the women playing likely will see something new: showers and lockers.

Sumter City Council unanimously awarded a $131,900 contract to Watson Construction to build the shower and locker facilities for men and women in what is now a storage unit next to a picnic shelter.

The open was the United States Tennis Association Women's Professional Circuit's debut at Palmetto last May. The event has a top award of $10,000, which generally attracts players ranked between 300 and 500 in the world, said Sam Kiser, the tennis center's director.

"It allows us to attract larger NCAA tournaments," Kiser said. "We've done some Division II tournaments. With showers and locker rooms, it allows us to go after Division I tournaments and run professional circuit events."

Councilman Bill Painter said the showers and lockers are an important investment for the city and region because they generate about $3 million a year in revenue, primarily from players and teams staying in area hotels and eating at local restaurants.

"This way they can still shower and get changed even after they check out of their motels and hotels on the last day of the tournament," he said. "We do a lot of events for these tournaments when they come around, and instead of going back and forth, they can do what they need to do right there."

Kiser said he is in negotiations with a major Division I conference, although he didn't say which one, to hold its tournament at Palmetto. He added that Sumter already hosts two Division II tournaments, the Intercollegiate Tennis Association's Southeast regional, and for the first time this year will host a significant portion of the Division I Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference's regular season schedule March 4-9.

MEAC schools stretch from Baltimore to Daytona Beach, Fla., including South Carolina State University.

"We'll have them in our hotels and restaurants for a week, which is good for us, and they cut down on their travel expenses, which is good for them," Kiser said. "Our matches will be booked solid for a week."

Kiser said showers and lockers also will allow the tennis center to increase the award given in the Palmetto Pro Open or possibly add a men's professional event.

"As you move up, you would get some of the top 125 players at $25,000 or the top 100 at $50,000," he said. "I don't know if we would go for an additional men's event or work to upgrade the women's event to a higher-quality one."

MEAC schools stretch from Baltimore to Daytona Beach, Fla., including South Carolina State University.

"We'll have them in our hotels and restaurants for a week, which is good for us, and they cut down on their travel expenses, which is good for them," Kiser said. "Our matches will be booked solid for a week."

Kiser said showers and lockers also will allow the tennis center to increase the award given in the Palmetto Pro Open or possibly add a men's professional event.

"As you move up, you would get some of the top 125 players at $25,000 or the top 100 at $50,000," he said. "I don't know if we would go for an additional men's event or work to upgrade the women's event to a higher-quality one."

 

 
 
 
 
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