The International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island is hardly new – it was established in 1954 – but its CEO, Todd Martin, has grand new visions for the museum. A former tennis champion, Martin recently said that he hopes to transform the grand old building into a global Mecca for all things tennis. And that translates into more sports tourism.
Martin, who has been in his job for a year now, told the Associated Press recently that he is focused on making sure the facility lives up to its international title by building relationships with major tennis organization around the globe, including the ATP and WTA.
“My vision is that we play a more and more integral role in the global sport of tennis,” said Martin, who was a finalist at the 1999 U.S. Open and the 1994 Australian Open and was once the number four ranked player in the world. “I love to compete. I think competitors love challenges and opportunities. This organization is loaded with opportunities.”
Martin, who replaced former CEO Mark L. Stenning (a fixture with the Hall of Fame for 35 years), retired from professional tennis in 2004 but has been on the board of the U.S. Tennis Association for many years, and he is a regular at the Grand Slam tournaments.
The International Tennis Hall of Fame, unlike other U.S. based sporting halls of fame, also represents international players, so Martin stresses that the organization plans to reach out across national borders. The facility recently underwent a $3 million facelift, and now features a hologram of 17-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer of Switzerland, an exhibit that has won rave reviews from visitors. The museum is also undergoing of a $15 million capital campaign, the largest in its history, to build new facilities, according to the Washington Post.
The building already has an impressive pedigree – it hosted the first United States Lawn Tennis Association (which later became the USTA) in 1881. In addition to featuring exhibits of memorabilia, the facility also has 10 traditional grass course that even non-members can play on. Interactive exhibits allow attendees to play “announcer” for historical tennis matches and send the results to themselves or friends. The museum is also available for group tours and private events.
While the facility hopes to attract more visitors, Martin told the Associated Press that museum attendance will not be the main metric for the Hall of Fame’s success.
“I think the Hall of Fame can really influence the sport,” he said.
The Hall of Fame’s most recent annual ceremony, held in July, inducted three players -- Amelie Mauresmo, David Hall and Nancy Jeffett – and honored class of 1987 member Billie Jean King, who accepted a ceremonial gold ring at the Center Court ceremonies.