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USTA Boys Tennis Tournament

August 2022 will mark the 80th year that Kalamazoo plays host city to the United States Tennis Association’s National Championship for 16-18 year-old boys. The tournament is staged over ten days at Kalamazoo College’s Stowe Stadium, located on its campus, along West Main Street, between Acker Lane and Thompson Street. Winners of the 18 year-old singles and doubles titles receive an automatic bid to the main draw of the U.S. Open Men’s and Women’s championship each year. So, how did Kalamazoo become the annual host city to this prestigious event?

Photo by Colleen Woolpert

Tourney History

Over the past 80 years, tennis audiences have been witness to some of the most legendary names in American tennis, including Tony Trabert, Stan Smith, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Pete Sampras, Aaron Krickstein, Andre Agassi, Michael Chang, Andy Roddick, and Bob and Mike Bryan. Despite cosmetic alterations made to courts and facilities over the years, the tournament in many ways, continues to resemble its earliest iteration, one that came to fruition during the fraught war years. Prior to Kalamazoo’s relationship to the tournament, it was played at the Culver Military Academy in Culver, Indiana. But, with the school’s involvement in the war effort after Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941, Kalamazoo College stepped in as host in 1942-43. Dr. Allen B. Stowe, whose name is indelibly connected to the campus stadium, and who served as director of the tournament until his death in 1957, was a leading champion of having the tournament in Kalamazoo. While the head of the college’s chemistry department was not an athlete himself, Stowe was a highly successful coach of the Kalamazoo College tennis team. At one point, Stowe’s teams amassed 18 straight titles. It was this passion for promoting the sport of tennis within the community and his success as coach that made Kalamazoo College such an attractive venue in the eyes of the USTA.

Sadly, in 1957, Stowe and his wife Doris were struck by an automobile while walking on campus. Stowe died as a result of his injuries while his wife survived. For many years after Stowe’s passing, the tournament was successfully run by well-known Athletic Director, Rolla L. Anderson, who retired in 1993.

“Looking Back” photograph from the Kalamazoo Gazette, August 16, 1998

Stowe Stadium entrance. Photo by Colleen Woolpert

Some of the more notable changes and milestones to the tournament include:

  • 1946–To prevent losing the tournament to another community, Kalamazoo constructs a new stadium, at a cost of $5000, and names it for Dr. Stowe. The stadium was moved to its current site from where the current Anderson Athletic Center is now located. The nine courts were made of red clay.
  • 1953–The first broadcast of the tournament finals by WKZO-AM radio.
  • 1964–Stowe Stadium rededicated after Teniko red clay surface is replaced by green and white, all-weather Laykold courts. Lights are added with a total of 438 1500-watt bulbs on eight steel poles.
  • 1979–Stowe Stadium undergoes its second major renovation at a cost of $165,000 with the addition of courts ten and eleven.
  • 1980–ESPN televises the tournament for the first time.
  • 1988–Thomas S. Markin Racquet Center opened, with four indoor tennis courts, three racquetball courts and one squash court. A record gallery, estimated in excess of 6,000, packs Stowe Stadium to see the exhibition featuring Andre Agassi vs. Mats Wilander.
  • 1992–A statue of a young tennis player hitting an overhead, created by noted sculptor Kirk Newman is unveiled.
  • 2005–Chair umpires are assigned to all matches for the first time in tournament history.
  • 2006–Courts are resurfaced with Deco Turf II blue.
  • 2009–The Fischer Tower at Stowe Stadium receives a complete renovation.
  • 2014–Website live streaming of featured matches on Courts 1, 2 and 3 was provided.

Source of Milestones–Official USTA website

Article written by Ryan Gage, Kalamazoo Public Library staff, February 2022. Last updated 31 March 2022.

Sources

Articles

“Kalamazoo, Forest Hills of Midwest”

Kalamazoo Gazette, 13 September 1967, page 39, column 1.


Local History Room Files

Subject Files: Tennis

Name Files: Stowe, Allen B.

Name Files: Anderson, Rolla L.


Online

Official Tournament website

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