BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament canceled amid coronavirus concerns, public health emergency

County Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser declares coronavirus a public emergency as first patient admitted to Eisenhower hospital in Rancho Mirage. Palm Springs Desert Sun

The 2020 BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament in Indian Wells, California has been canceled amid coronavirus concerns, organizers announced Sunday evening.

Local health officials announced Saturday that a person who tested positive for coronavirus was being treated at Eisenhower Health hospital in Rancho Mirage, California, and Riverside County (Calif.) officials announced a public health emergency on Sunday.

“We are very disappointed that the tournament will not take place, but the health and safety of the local community, fans, players, volunteers, sponsors, employees, vendors, and everyone involved with the event is of paramount importance,” Tournament Director Tommy Haas said in a statement. “We are prepared to hold the tournament on another date and will explore options.”

Martin Massiello, Eisenhower Health’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, added: “We appreciate the proactive stance tournament organizers are taking to ensure public health and safety.”

The 2020 BNP Paribas Open will not be held.

— BNP Paribas Open (@BNPPARIBASOPEN) March 9, 2020

Anyone who purchased tickets to the tournament may request a refund for this year's event or credit toward the 2021 tournament.

They can make their request by visiting by March 31.

Refunds apply to complete orders only. Physical tickets need to be presented at the box office or suite department, digital tickets need to be in a customer's ticketing account, and all requests need to be made by the purchaser on record.

Would-be attendees expressed shock and sadness in the hours following the announcement that the tournament had been canceled.

"It's horrible. I'm shocked,” said Arlene De La Paz, a La Quinta resident and Eisenhower nurse who has attended the tournament with courtside seats for 18 years. “As a fan, I am disappointed. I felt it was an overreaction for one case, but as I thought about it as a nurse it is the right decision.

“From the health perspective, it is the right decision. A lot of our population is elderly, you don't want them exposed to corona(virus).”

The tournament, which was supposed to run through March 22, has been held in the desert every year since 1976. Qualifying was set to begin Monday, with the main draw play for the women set to start Wednesday.

Indian Wells is one of the most popular stops for the men and women on tour and is considered an unofficial fifth “major” tournament. This year’s prize money was to exceed $17 million.

Canada's Bianca Andreescu and Austria's Dominic Thiem won the women's and men's singles titles in 2019. The BNP Paribas Open set an attendance record last year with 475,372 attendees over the two-week period.

Rancho Mirage native Desirae Krawczyk, a professional tennis player on the women’s tour, was scheduled to play doubles at Indian Wells with Giuliana Olmos of Mexico. The pair won the doubles title together in Acapulco last month and Krawczyk, 26, had hoped to repeat the success at home in front of friends and family.

“It’s definitely frustrating to hear about the tournament being canceled,” Krawczyk told The Desert Sun on Sunday evening. “A lot of players, myself included, look forward to coming here and playing at one of the best events on tour, so it’s disappointing to hear so suddenly.”

The tournament is the first major local event to be impacted by concerns of coronavirus as the number of infected people increased in Riverside County.

Its cancellation comes two days after the tournament detailed several new preventative measures they were taking due to coronavirus concerns.

Ball kids were going to wear gloves, as were all ticket-takers and food vendors. Only the players would handle their towels. The tournament planned to have 250 new hand-sanitizing stations peppered around the grounds.

In a statement, Indian Wells leaders said they support the decision to cancel this year's tournament and that this year's event will "set an example of thoughtful leadership that prioritizes the health of players, fans and the community."

A statement issued by Steve Simon, the chairman and CEO of the WTA who also was the tournament director at the BNP Paribas Open until 2015, said decisions on future tournaments have not been made.

"We are disappointed our fans will not be able to come out and watch the event, and our players are also disappointed to not compete over the next two weeks, along with the sponsors who support the event," said Steve Simon, the chairman and CEO of the WTA. "However, we understand the decision which has been made in the interest of public health and safety which is the top priority at this time. It is too soon to speculate about what will happen to other tournament that follow."

The next stop on the tennis tour is Miami for the Miami Open. Almost all the players who would've played in the BNP Paribas Open would also play in Miami.

Cancellation came nearly seven hours after Riverside County Public Health Officer Cameron Kaiser proclaimed the public health emergency during a news conference at Eisenhower Health.

The patient at Eisenhower Health is the second Riverside County resident to test positive for coronavirus. The first person was a passenger on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan and is being treated at a Northern California facility.

During the news conference, Kaiser stressed "community exposure is low" and reiterated a previous statement that health officials had not recommended the cancellation of events that attract thousands of people to the Coachella Valley.

Tournament officials said the cancellation was based on guidance from medical officials.

“There is too great a risk, at this time, to the public health of the Riverside County area in holding a large gathering of this size,” Dr. David Agus, a USC professor of medicine and biomedical engineering, said in a statement. “It is not in the public interest of fans, players and neighboring areas for this tournament to proceed. We all have to join together to protect the community from the coronavirus outbreak.”

The next big event in the desert is the LPGA's ANA Inspiration, a major championship on the women's professional golf tour. As of Sunday, tournament officials were still planning on holding the event March 30 through April 5 at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage.

More discussions on the prospects of the event will be held early this week between the LPGA, tournament operator International Management Group and tournament sponsor All Nippon Airways. Earlier this year the LPGA canceled three tournament, one in Thailand, one in Singapore and one in China, over health and safety concerns for players because of the coronavirus.

Other events taking place include the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and Stagecoach country music festival. Both take place next month at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California.

As of Sunday night, nearly 10,000 people signed a petition calling for Coachella's cancellation. An opposing petition had support from about 800 people.

Contributing: Larry Bohannan


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