The New York Buzz World Team Tennis will move to Albany’s Washington Avenue Armory from its longtime home, Central Park in Schenectady, officials announced Thursday.
Schenectady Mayor Brian Stratton said he received a letter Thursday morning from the team’s owner, Nitty Singh, informing him of the move. It was a shock — just a few weeks earlier, the city held an event to kick off the New York Buzz’s 2008 season in Central Park and announce the lineup.
“I got a letter delivered to my office today from Nitty Singh, which said it’s a business decision, not a personal one to move the matches. We are disappointed. We believe we have the most elegant and enjoyable setting for professional tennis and have for the last 13 years in Schenectady,” said Stratton.
Singh could not be reached to comment.
Stratton said Singh had talked about moving one single premier match with Serena Williams and Anna Kournikova to Albany in case of inclement weather.
“We were willing to work with her on the one match; she said she was concerned she had debt and needed to sell more seats. If the weather turned, she didn’t have a nearby venue.”
Stratton told her the city would work with her to find another place in case it rained on the day of this event. “While the city can provide a beautiful setting, it unfortunately cannot control the weather or Singh’s business decisions. I’m only the mayor, not God, I can’t guarantee the weather,” he said.
The city provided the Buzz the courts at Central Park free of charge, maintained them and added lighting, benches and bleachers.
While Stratton was very disappointed, Jim Coyne, executive director of the Washington Avenue Armory, was excited about hosting the team and said the armory will be air conditioned and will have secure parking for tennis fans.
“This will help to accommodate the Buzz’s growing fan base, give the team much more visibility and awareness, and help increase the level of hospitality the Buzz wish to provide. This move will enhance the experience that people have been accustomed to for the past 13 years, and we promise that fans will still be able to watch amazing tennis in an intimate, fun setting,” according to a press release from the New York Buzz.
“It will be great for the armory and some matches are televised nationally,” said Coyne. “It’s an economic stimulus to bring the team to Albany, and each match will attract up to 2,000 people who will eat dinner and spend money after the event.”
Coyne said Singh approached him about a month ago about moving the team from Schenectady to Albany.
He had spoken to her several years before to see if a professional exhibition tennis match could be held at the armory, but at the time the configuration of the building didn’t work.
It has since been changed and Coyne said Singh approached him again recently about relocating the team’s home site to Albany.
“I said I would be thrilled to have it here,” said Coyne. “It will be great, June, July and August are pretty dead anyway at the armory. It worked out well logistically.”
Singh continued discussions with Albany Mayor Gerald Jennings, and the deal was solidified in about a month, said Coyne.
The New York Buzz will pay rent for the space at the armory; the cost was not released.
Stratton said he’s not sure how Singh will pay rent and still reach her bottom line. He said the city of Schenectady received residual benefits of people coming for the tennis matches, adding: “It’s more a symbolic loss than a financial loss.”
There’s no revenue mechanism that was built into the deal. Singh paid no rental fees and no parking fees, according to Stratton.
“Everything was absolutely free for her. That’s the way it has been,” said Stratton.
He also said the city helped recruit sponsors for New York Buzz and he’s not sure what will happen with the CDPHP sponsorship now that the team is moving.
Stratton, who lives near Central Park, said he went to several matches and enjoyed them. He said he’d be remiss if did not say that real tennis fans who visited Central Park will miss coming to the beautiful facility to watch tennis under the stars and surrounded by trees.
“Maybe down the road there’s another opportunity for professional tennis to come back to Central Park. We have held our bargain up every step of the way and I’m disappointed, but it’s something she has to do for her bottom line.”
There are more seats in the armory and no chance of weather delays or cancellations, he noted.
The team’s 14th season includes seven home matches that will be played between July 3 and 25.