While the heat was oppressive the early part of the week, temps have cooled slightly but that’s not the amazing part about the event this week in St. Louis. Hundreds of tennis players are in St. Louis this week at the 84th Annual National Public Parks Tennis Championships, which began in 1923 in this very city.
Players have come from all over the country to play in this event. The National Public Parks Association runs championships like this one in other sports, but tennis, oft thought of by the general public as a "country club" sport, is anything but.
"It’s important we have tournaments like this because many greats like the Williams sisters and Billie Jean King came up through the parks," Ken McAllister, the president of the National Public Parks Association and the executive director of the Texas section the USTA said.
One of the best parts of this tournament is watching family members play. Rarely in sport does it happen and in tennis, not only does it happen at the pro level (see the Bryan brothers and the Williams sisters), but it happens in the public parks too.
Chris Veitzer and Josh Raymond, a mother son team who won that divisions championship, haven’t had the opportunity to play together much, but they made the most of their opportunity.
"It was great playing together," Veitzer said.
Her son added, "I had a great time."
It wasn’t just those two here in St. Louis either. Her daughter, and Josh’s little sister, was here as well taking photos of her team.
The week-long event has brought people from all over the country. Here are a few numbers to crunch on. There are 447 individual players at this event and 672 total entrants. That means more than a handful of the players are entered into more than one event.
Additionally, 28 states are represented, including places as far away as Florida and California and also all five states in the USTA Missouri Valley.
Finally, 57 percent of the players are not from the local area. A huge compliment to the importance of the public parks system.
Next year the event moves on the Minneapolis, but McAllister said on Wednesday night that while the organization likes to move the event around, they have made a commitment to bring the event back to its St. Louis home every five years.
"It seemed fitting to bring the tournament back to its roots," McAllister said.