ANDY RODDICK’S ringing endorsement of his first visit to Eastbourne was music to the town’s ears.
The former world number one waxed lyrical about the atmosphere of Devonshire Park and of his amazement at being able to walk to matches from his hotel.
Good weather (at that stage of the week), enthusiastic yet unassuming fans and a real feeling of community support, had all caught the star’s eye. In a blink, our Mr Roddick had got the Eastbourne buzz!
Fingers were tightly crossed as the Herald went to press that the town would get the £9million boost to its economy that the council was predicting, and that the Lawn Tennis Association would get its slice of the action from increased ticket sales.
Devonshire Park was hoping for more spectators than last year when almost 36,000 fans poured into then town, more than 5,000 of them on finals day.
A good proportion of those fans were again staying in the town’s hotels for an average of five days; they were eating in the restaurants, buying souvenirs in the shops and delighting in all that our seafront has to offer. And just as importantly, they will take away with them a great experience of Eastbourne.
No-one who has visited this year’s tournament can fail to have been impressed yet again at that something special that Devonshire Park has to offer. As one newcomer told us, “I usually go to Roehampton but thought I would try Eastbourne and I have not been disappointed. It is a lovely place.”
So the players love it here; the fans adore it and even the weather seemed to have been kinder than we had expected. So job done? Sadly not . . .
We are in mid-term of a three-year agreement with the LTA that assures us of international tennis at the park next year. Beyond that, all is still to play for. Nothing can be taken for granted.
The challenge this next year is to bring financial reality to the plan to revamp the entire Devonshire Park area, including the Winter Garden and the embattled Congress theatre, and to re-polish what should undoubtedly be the jewel in Eastbourne’s crown. Deliver that and courting the LTA will be a whole lot easier.