The USTA has announced sweeping plans to eliminate 110 jobs and close its national headquarters in White Plains, New York, as a result of the devastating financial effects of the global Covid-19 pandemic and 18 months of proposed restructuring to streamline the organisation.
The initial driving force was to get our organisation leaner and meaner and closer to our strategic priorities. The USTA staff had a fair amount of overlap of responsibilities and some of the positions we had were not aligned with our five priorities. I was brought in to restructure the organisation and to align the USTA with what we call our five strategic priorities. Michael Dowse, USTA Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director
In a statement, the USTA added the measures were also necessary to ensure that the US Open remains a world-class level event.
Wimbledon has been cancelled and the French Open rescheduled, while the US Open has, for the moment, retained its place on the calendar and is scheduled to start on 24 August.
“We have an opportunity to re-imagine the structure of the organisation to better serve the tennis community in the United States,” said USTA Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director Michael Dowse.
“This new structure allows the USTA to be more agile and more cost effective, while getting closer to tennis players at the local level.
“Unfortunately, today represents a challenging day for many of the USTA family who have been negatively affected by the downsizing of the organisation, and I would like to sincerely thank each USTA staff member for their dedication to the organisation.”
The move comes as the USTA continues its attempts to stage its flagship event, the US Open, on its scheduled dates in the calendar at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, Queens, albeit without spectators.
In April the USTA identified more than $20m in savings, including tiered pay cuts for senior executives for the remainder of 2020, eliminating marketing, player development and operations costs, and deferring all non-essential capital projects.
The USTA also furloughed approximately 100 of its employees, while cancelling its annual and semi-annual meetings.
Other budget-trimming moves include: reducing the national staff by about 20 per cent; moving the head office to a yet-to-be-determined location in New York; significant reductions in meeting and travel expenses for the years 2021-23; and ‘significant cuts in business units and other investments that are not aligned with the USTA’s strategic priorities’.
In an exclusive interview with Inside Tennis, Dowse explained, “The initial driving force was to get our organisation leaner and meaner and closer to our strategic priorities.
“The USTA staff had a fair amount of overlap of responsibilities and some of the positions we had were not aligned with our five priorities.
“I was brought in to restructure the organisation and to align the USTA with what we call our five strategic priorities.
“Regardless of the pandemic and its effect on the Open, that was something I was going to work with the Board to do. When the pandemic happened, it obviously amplified the situation even more.”
Kurt Kamperman, a much respected USTA Executive now overseeing the group’s Lake Nona campus in Florida, will be retiring at the end of the year, as will David Brewer, the US Open’s Tournament Director, who will be replaced by former WTA chief Stacey Allaster; while the USTA Player Development Program, headed by Martin Blackman, will merge with the USTA’s Community Tennis division that is led by Craig Morris.
As for the US Open, the USTA is planning to make it happen, and recent reports have indicated that players will be restricted to staying in airport hotels outside of Manhattan, to having limited entourages of perhaps just one or two people, possibly playing the best of three sets, and having restricted locker rooms and adult ball persons only.
“We haven’t finalised an official plan yet,” Dowse told Inside Tennis. “We’re trying to be collaborative, working with the ATP and the WTA.
“What’s giving me comfort is that we’ve gotten really clear on what I call the three guiding principles. And if we achieve those, we’ll have the tournament.
“No 1, and first and foremost, the health and well-being of everyone – staff, players, and the local community. Of course, we must work with the government and get approvals to get through that gate.
“No 2: Is having the Open good for tennis? Are we putting out a good product? Are we providing good content for our media partners and the tennis community? And right now everything we are hearing is, ‘Yes.’
“Our media partners are starved for content, our tennis players are starved. We feel it would be great.
“The third question is whether it makes financial sense. And that means for all the stakeholders, the players, and the USTA, which is ultimately our sections and our mission [to advance tennis].”
Dowse noted that all the potential US Open restrictions, such as smaller entourages and travel and locker room limitations, are being put in place to meet COVID-19 guidelines.
“We are doing all that to check that first box of health and safety for everyone,” he said, noting that the USTA is in contact with the game’s marquee players such as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams, either directly or through their agents, the ATP or the WTA.
The Cincinnati Masters could reportedly be held at the National Tennis Center as part of a doubleheader with the US Open.
The high-profile tournament, which is also known as the Western & Southern Open, is currently scheduled for 17-23 August in Mason, Ohio, with the main draw of the US Open planning a 31 August start.