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Looking for a break from the cold? Tennis anyone?

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Looking for an escape from the unrelenting cold of this endless winter?

Sun and warmth is a short flight away and doesn’t require a passport. Relief from this winter is available a short flight from Brainerd where the air is redolent of sweet-smelling alyssum.

Look no further than Palm Springs, Calif., where the open-air airport is small and traffic easy to slip into on the way to the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Indian Wells is home to the BNP Paribas Open, which brings world-class tennis to a fan-friendly environment that is also affordable for people driving 10-year-old cars and earning a working class income.

This year, the tennis grounds include a new Stadium 2, which seats 8,000 fans. The tennis garden’s seating capacity is now 41,485 or a 17 percent increase from 2013, according to a report on the expansion.

“It’s not the brick and mortar, it’s the experience that goes with it,” said tournament director Steve Simon in a news release on the tennis garden. “And the elements that have to go with it to enhance the brick and mortar. It’s the whole package that makes it special.”

For a time-lapse view of the stadium’s construction with video of the grounds and amenities, go to

The new stadium includes three restaurants — Nobu Indian Wells, a Japanese restaurant; Chop House, steaks and chops; and Piero’s PizzaVino, with Neapolitans pies.

Other new amenities include: Wi-Fi, the addition of more than 400 date palm trees, 16 acres of new turf, a 19,000-square-foot shade structure, a new East Entry gate lined with 17,905 shrubs.

“The impact this will have on people will be fun to watch,” Simon stated. “I don’t think they have any idea the magnitude of what’s been going on.”

Stadium 2 is available to general admission ticket holders with 3,000 “lower-bowl seats.”

General admission ticket holders access the grounds with food, entertainment and shopping along with practice courts and outside court seating. There are also general admission seat openings in stadiums 1 through 9, but they may be limited to day sessions and certain sections.

“After ground was broken on site last year with the help of tournament owner Larry Ellison and former champions Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Ana Ivanovic, Victoria Azarenka and Novak Djokovic, crews from Watkins Landmark Construction worked for 10 months building and readying the new site and expansion pieces,” stated an article by Nicholas McCarvel on the website.

One of the joys of attending this tournament is the sense of space and never being over-crowded — even as fans line the practice courts making it necessary to arrive early to get a good glimpse of Nadal.

With the many courts on the grounds, fans armed with just a general admission ticket, ranging from $38 to $57 depending on the day, may see top players up close for the first time.

Grandstand ticket prices range from $13 to $65, with additional discounts for U.S. Tennis Association members (annual adult memberships are $44 and junior memberships are $20). Senior citizens, students and military personnel also receive 30 percent off daily loge tickets, for seats in the upper decks.

A day upper-deck ticket ranges from $44 to $66 with tennis and sunshine in ready abundance along with mountain views. There are daily stadium box and courtside box seats that can take a couple hundred dollars out of the budget but are worth a splurge, at least for a day or night session.

Tennis fans in Minnesota can view stadium maps and choose tickets online and print them at home for the trip.

While it has all the talent of a grand slam, the tournament setting and atmosphere makes it feel more like a small, easily accessible community.

In expanding, Simon stated the goal was not to diminish that experience even as more people are attracted to the event.

Fans relax in lounge chairs while watching the stadium action on large TV screens.

For tennis fans, it’s a must trip made all the more appealing by the time of year as winter still grips the Midwest during its two-week run in early March. First-timers may want to take advantage of the first week where top players, both men and women, are in action across the grounds. To get a glimpse at the tournament, Tennis Channel is covering matches. More limited coverage is available via ESPN2 and ESPN News.

So, splurge and escape this winter and see the tournament this year. First-round play started Wednesday, March 5, with the finals slated for March 16. Or save up for next year and catch the action on television, crank the heat, close the blinds and imagine sitting in the stands.

I did that for years before making the trip. But getting to see it first-hand was incredible and worth every cent. And the weather forecast for Indian Wells during the tournament is sunshine and daytime highs in the 80s. Enough said.

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at 855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
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