People who play in glass houses

South Sound Squash Club has embarked on an ambitious professional squash tournament plan that will make the Cayman Islands one of the stops on the professional squash tour, attracting many of the world’s top female players to a world ranking event next year.

The 2009 Cayman Open will be held at South Sound Squash Club’s world-class facilities, with the event scheduled for early May.

It will be a seven day tournament starting with a qualifying event of 16 players, and a Main Draw tournament of 12 players (plus 4 qualifiers).

The event will attract 23 professional squash players here and will allow five of Cayman’s best players to participate.

Tournament organiser and SSSC coach Dan Kneipp is the driving force behind the tournament.

‘Our first priority for next year is to host a world ranking pro tournament,’ he said.

‘Regardless of how big it is and whether we have players in the top 10 or players in the world top 50 it will be a brilliant event to watch and great for Cayman’s national team to participate in.

‘But providing we can get enough sponsorship this will guarantee we get the top players in the world – the pro players are contractually obliged to attend large events.’

Kneipp should know. He spent a few years coaching on the professional tour and has been responsible for organising over 100 tournaments including the Wilson European Tour Grand Final in Amsterdam.

‘Squash isn’t like tennis and golf where there’s multi-million dollar tournaments all the time, but there’s still a decent pro tour with big tournaments every month in different parts of the world.

‘The main tournaments are in America, Asia, Western Europe and the Middle East. The winner of a big squash tournament will take home between $15,000 and $40,000. That’s peanuts compared to what the tennis and golf players get, but it’s still good money for a week’s work.’

Kneipp coached his big brother on the tour, and during their time together made the semi finals of the World Open and US Open and the final of the Super Series (similar to the Tennis Masters).

‘I got to experience the best tournaments around the world, and later I was involved in organising pro tournaments. It is a spectacular atmosphere. I think squash is the best sport for atmosphere and proximity to the action.

‘When I arrived in Cayman one of the first things I realised is that this is the ideal place to hold a big international tournament.’

The 2009 Cayman Open will have extensive benefits for the local squash community, juniors and the Cayman Islands.

As hosts of a professional tournament SSSC will be able to offer one wildcard into the main draw for Cayman Islands’ best squash player.

One of the elite players currently in the Maples 2010 Commonwealth Games Squad will get a chance to play against the best in the world.

Also four positions into the qualifying tournament will be available, meaning that Caymanians will make up 16 per cent of the total tournament participation.

The squash club is ensuring that there will be free viewing nights so that anyone is able to experience the tournament.

The Cayman Open will also use the visiting squash professionals to do extensive workshops with Cayman schools along with the Cayman Islands National Squash Association’s beginner juniors and elite juniors.

The tournament will get extensive coverage for the island. It will reach over 900,000 monthly viewers of the two main squash websites, along with 64,000 readers of the two squash magazines.

But it’s the American squash audience that will offer the most value to sponsors of the Cayman Open.

SSSC is hosting five US colleges over the next six weeks including two Ivy League Colleges – Dartmouth and Brown.

It’s SSSC’s ability to attract college teams and tap into the US squash market that will aid the tournament’s success.

In the United States squash has the second highest average income per participant for any sport, behind polo.

‘South Sound Squash Club’s plan for the 2010 open is extremely ambitious and exciting,’ added Kneipp.

‘Top professional squash tournaments aren’t usually played at squash clubs. Instead portable glass courts are used with spectator seating surrounding the four glass walls.

‘This way much larger crowds can be accommodated and because of the ability to put the glass court virtually anywhere, professional squash tournaments are usually set up in dramatic and iconic locations that display the beauty of the host nation.’

Some of the most dramatic squash tournament locations include at the base of the pyramids in Egypt, New York City’s Grand Central Station, Canary Wharf in the heart of London, Boston’s Symphony Hall, Trafalgar Square in London, Hong Kong’s harbour and the 2007 World Open overlooking Bermuda’s beautiful Horse Shoe Bay.

‘Once we move to the glass court in 2010 we’ll be able to look at a dramatic venue,’ Kneipp said.

‘We’ll then look at expanding the tournament so that it includes the top male players as well as the top female players. Once we’re able to do this we’ll also get television coverage for the event that will reach over 320 million viewers, including Sky TV and the Tennis Channel.’

Kneipp says that the key to the success for 2009 and 2010’s events is the companies that become involved.

‘We’re not just looking for sponsors for this event,’ Kneipp said. ‘We’re looking for a team of complementary partners that are interesting in reaching the affluent US squash market and can see the long term benefits and goals for where we are taking this squash tournament.

‘Our event will offer great exposure for the companies involved, we’ll be running a world class event that showcases Cayman’s beauty to the world, and we’re helping our best squash players compete against the world’s best.’

For information on getting involved in the 2009 Cayman Open contact Dan Kneipp at [email protected]