Mysteries Revealed: Why Do We Have A Stadium?

When it's rockin' it's good, when it's empty it's not so good.

When it’s rockin’ it’s good, when it’s empty it’s not so good.

Editor’s note: First in a series of posts that will reveal the stories and answer the burning question “what were they thinking?”  behind local mysteries including “the gateway feature”, special events and our favorite “conditional use.”

The Delray Beach Open was in the news last week.
News outlets all over the world reported that 5 of the top 30 players on the planet will be coming to Delray to play in the ATP event Feb. 12-21.  And the Sun-Sentinel reported that the city commission is challenging the legality of the tennis contract with the event’s promoter signed in October 2005 with the city.
Commissioners felt the need to hire outside counsel to review the deal even though it appears that perhaps two members of the commission had no idea that such a decision was made. They don’t remember voting and nobody can find a record of an agenda item. Ironic since the outside lawyer was tasked with opining on whether the city followed the proper process in 2005 in not bidding the contract.
So much for “process” I suppose.

At least when we approved the deal it was at a public meeting with 32 pages of back-up material available for public perusal.

I was mayor at the time. More on the process part later.

It’s my understanding that Delray is the smallest city in the world to host an ATP event.
It wasn’t my decision to build a stadium downtown. That was a decision made by a City Commission led by Mayor Tom Lynch. In my opinion, Mayor Lynch was as good as any mayor we’ve had in the nearly 30 years I have lived in Delray Beach.
As good as Mayor Lynch was, he’s not above criticism. Nobody is.
Over the years the public has questioned whether the tennis stadium was a good idea.
It’s certainly debatable and it’s healthy to debate because sometimes you might learn something that you can use to inform future decisions.
But in order to have a meaningful debate rather than a game of “gotcha” which does nothing but make bullies feel a little better you have to go deeper than platitudes and sweeping indictments of past decisions.
When the decision to build the tennis stadium and redo the old and blighted tennis center was made, Delray was not the Delray we live in today.
The downtown was promising, but not quite vibrant or sustainable. The West Atlantic corridor was plagued by crime, disinvestment and negative perceptions. There was no library, no Fairfield Inn, no Atlantic Grove, no Ziree, no Windy City Pizza. There was however, loitering and drug dealing and a drive through liquor store.

So when Mayor Lynch and his colleagues (which included a future mayor named Jay Alperin) decided against relocating the tennis center to suburbia and then made a deal to build a tennis stadium to host a Virginia Slims event it was a bold and dramatic decision. Mayor Lynch thought the decision changed how people thought of Delray. He believed it encouraged investment and drew visitors to a city that was ambitious and was trying to turn the corner and become a vibrant and prosperous place.
He believed that decision, along with the restoration of Old School Square among other decisions and investments, set the stage for Delray’s renaissance.
I know how he thought, because I covered his commission and later tried to build on his and others work when I was elected to the commission.
Note the words build on–it’s the opposite of reverse. Not that prior decisions are sacrosanct or that we didn’t reverse many things that were done by prior mayors and commission’s but we did so with the benefit of either knowing or trying to understand the rationale of the original policy.
The Virginia Slims event lasted 2 or three years before Kraft pulled out of women’s tennis. The event and it’s long term deal went away. We were left with a stadium without an event. Concerts were tried and mostly failed at the facility. Boxing failed too. An arena football team took a look and then went away.
The stadium was an issue on the campaign trail and in the various meetings with the community that we held regularly during my term in office. It was called a “white elephant” and severely underutilized. It was considered a costly drain too.
So the commission’s I served on made a decision.

Right or wrong we decided not to raze or sell the stadium. But we did decide to pursue events.
Mindful of the departure of the Slims we thought it was wise to try and lock in a tournament for a long term deal. We also agreed to try concerts again (that didn’t work), approved a deal to bring the Chris Evert Pro Celebrity Classic to the stadium and eagerly approved adding national junior events during “off season” to put heads in beds. That worked well.
We also pursued and won Davis Cup and Fed Cup ties which were highly successful.
We did these things not to ring city cash registers but to market our city (the deal included TV coverage and TV ads) and to help our downtown businesses grow.
Considering the hot summer and the hurricane season (we had a bunch during that era) we thought if we could have events from November through April it would suffice. We could breathe life into the white elephant and market our city.
You may think that makes sense or you may think it was the worst business deal around these parts since IBM shunned Bill Gates and something called Windows, but that’s the rest of the story as Paul Harvey might say.
If there is a desire to get rid of the event or to renegotiate it so be it.
If there is a desire to sell the stadium, tennis center and City Hall–yes City Hall have at it. Personally, I think those ideas are ridiculous.
But regardless, it’s helpful to understand the history, context and rationale of decisions so you can best plan for the future.
Again, I don’t think selling public assets to pay for recurring expenses is prudent. I can promise you future policy makers will be looking at that and scratching their heads if indeed any of these ‘out of the box’ concepts come to fruition.
I also don’t buy into the assessment of the current administration that we are broke. Spiritually and morale wise maybe–financially no way. With nearly $30 million in reserves and a growing tax base and people still willing to invest here despite a Byzantine and never ending approval “process” I’d say we are in decent shape. Not because of current policy and “leadership” but because of vision and leadership going back to the mid 80s that was able to build a pretty cool city with growing property values and a ton of amenities that has made future progress possible citywide including Congress Avenue. (But not if you shut down or take your eye off the downtown).
We may have made a bad business decision in 2005. I would happily debate the current mayor or any elected on that point and many others including the Byzantine never ending approval process, flawed LDRs and the  lack of transparency on the fire merger and the decision to hire outside legal counsel to look at the tennis contract. As I mentioned earlier,  I’m told two commissioners didn’t even know about it. I talked to one and he said he didn’t. I didn’t call the other.
So we have outside counsel investigating whether a contract was entered into in violation of a process without a process to hire outside counsel. Interesting.
As for the opinion that the contract should have been bid, I disagree.
Here’s the ordinance we worked off of. You decide. Or maybe a court will. Our commission didn’t build the tennis stadium, we did decide to try and put things in it.



Specialty Goods and Services. Acquisitions of or contracts for specialty goods and services (including but not limited to performing artists, artwork, special events, entertainment, and food and beverage) may be made or entered into by the City Manager without utilizing a Sealed Competitive Method or the Written Quotations Method. Acquisitions of specialty goods and services, where the expenditure by the City is estimated to be twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000.00) or greater, shall be subject to approval by the City Commission.

Newly Rebranded Delray Beach Open an International Tennis Destination Promoting Local Business Growth

From the ticket to the posters, the Delray Open was completely rebranded this year.

From the ticket to the posters, the Delray Open was completely rebranded this year.


Editor’s note: Before it fades into history, we wanted to revisit the rebranding of the Delray Beach Open to give readers insight into the thinking behind the effort and what the future holds for Delray’s ATP event. Guest blogger Natalie Mikolich gives us some insight.


By: Natalie Mikolich, Sports Publicist for NPM | PR (@npmikolich)


Now known as one of the top tennis towns in the U.S., Delray Beach and the

Delray Beach Tennis Center have been the hometown courts to many local tennis players along with hosting some of the most prestigious tennis events in the world such as the U.S. Davis and Fed Cup ties. Also showcasing the future generation of American tennis stars during the national junior tournaments put on every summer at their public facility, the most well-known event of all to take place at the Delray Beach Tennis Center is the annually held ATP World Tour event – the Delray Beach Open.


Going on its 15th year of bringing out some of the hottest ATP World Tour tennis superstars and serving-up full court entertainment for local tennis fans, 2014 turned out to be one of the best years yet for the newly re-branded Delray Beach Open. Undergoing a complete marketing and branding overhaul in 2013, it was local WOO Creative ( of Delray Beach that the event turned to in order to guide them through the process.


“In 2013, we started working with WOO Creative in Delray Beach on re-developing our brand identity and ad campaign,” said John Butler, Executive Director of the Delray Beach Open.  “We are very into working with local talent for public relations and marketing of the event.”


One of the biggest changes to take place this year was renaming the ATP World Tour Event to the Delray Beach Open from the International Tennis Championships of Delray Beach.


“We wanted to be careful about using the word ‘open’ which means anyone can enter to play, but we truly are ‘open’ to anyone,” added Butler.  “We had two pre-qualifying events this year with more than 200 players including juniors, college players and pros.  We even have one player in his 70s who gives it a go every year.”


“Last year, after our first year handling the marketing materials for, at the time, the ‘International Tennis Championship of Delray Beach,’ my business partner and I were sitting in the stands asking ourselves ‘Why isn’t this tournament called the Delray Beach Open?’,” said Ryan Boylston, President and Founder of WOO Creative. “From there, we pitched the new name and a proper logo to the event’s Executive Director, John Butler, because we wanted to help put them on the same level as any other ATP tournament.”



Along with the new name for this year’s event, WOO Creative also worked closely with the Delray Beach Open team to refocus their brand messaging so that they were targeting true tennis fans with their marketing materials this year – which even included some special edition Dunkin Donuts just for the event.


“The main initiative was to launch the new name and logo,” Boylston added. “Although the marketing materials grew evolutionary from last year’s, we ensured to keep a lot of elements so that the consumer could still make the connection. We wanted people to know that this wasn’t a new event, just a better one.”


“Working with WOO, we took the ATP World Tour’s campaign graphics for the players and logos and toned them down for the tournament so that the players (the product) were even more easily recognizable in the marketing materials, especially because they had to work with both the ATP Champions Tour and the ATP World Tour logos and other mandatory inclusions,” Butler elaborated on.  “We went through several revisions with the ATP before there was a consensus on our final campaign, including tweaking the player photos so they had less flourishes and using a darkened version of the ATP logos so they supported the ads rather than being a focal point.”


And with that, there also came a mock-up design of a tennis ball in the shape of a heart along with the tagline “I Heart Tennis” by WOO Creative.  Once approved by the event, the local Dunkin Donuts next door to the Delray Beach Tennis Center on Atlantic Avenue began serving-up specialty yellow tennis ball, heart-shaped designed donuts in the week leading up to the start of the Delray Beach Open.


“As soon as we mocked up our first heart-shaped tennis ball, we knew we had something,” Boylston mentioned. “The donuts were just a nice little coincidence. It helps when your tournament kicks-off on Valentine’s Day and Dunkin Donuts is already serving heart-shaped donuts.”


On-site at the event this year, it was local Delray Beach Polaroid Fotobar ( who did all of the images of the players that filled the backdrops on stadium court.


“We wanted to have to have a ‘wall of family photos’ featuring the players in the tournament as a backdrop to the stadium action, and partnering with Polaroid Fotobar on the project, it enabled us to use the tournament’s tv visibility to expose a homegrown brand,” said Butler.


But, of all the new changes to take place this year for the Delray Beach Open, perhaps the one that “wooed” spectators the most was the new WOO Lounge skybox setup on the East side of the stadium in the middle of the stands. While some of today’s hottest tennis stars like John Isner were popping big serves on the court, in the WOO Lounge they were popping bottles of bubbly for their VIP guests who got some much needed reprieve from the sun at times during the day, or a place to lounge and socialize at night after work.


“We want tennis people to be proud of the way the event is promoted and want to make it just as exciting for fans who attend NBA Heat Games.  We want the Delray Beach Open to be more than tennis with its entertainment, so you will see things out of the norm like the Volley Girls dancing on changeovers, in-stadium hosts engaging fans with contests and games, and the new WOO Lounge skybox area in the middle of the east stands,” Butler explained.  “We try to take the event to the next level and want fans to appreciate the great spectator sport that tennis is, but also enjoy everything that is here so they walk away saying ‘that was not what they were expecting’.”


And to that extent, the Delray Beach Open and WOO Creative covered every inch of the court and town when it came to this year’s event so that not only were billboards and large cutouts of the top players seen throughout Delray Beach and neighboring cities, but they even reached residents in their homes by partnering with local businesses who also benefited from this year’s event.


“This year, we partnered with Delivery Dudes who included our brochures with all of their food deliveries in the weeks leading up to the event, and then during the tournament at the end of every session, we would do a cool promo on stadium court encouraging everyone to call Delivery Dudes on their way home so dinner was ready and waiting when they got home,” said Butler.


Delivering from most of the local area’s favorite restaurant locations, the

Delivery Dudes ( pride themselves on their “hilarious and friendly staff” racing around town (including in other near-by locations like Boca Raton and Boynton Beach) to pick-up and deliver food orders faster than most deliveries are even possible.


“When I got the voicemail John Butler left me about wanting to work with us, I told everyone I knew how incredible it was that an event like the Delray Beach Open wanted to partner with us,” said Jayson Koss, Founder of Delivery Dudes created in Delray Beach about two years ago.  “I was taken back to be on the event’s radar with the others like WOO Creative and Polaroid Fotobar who are doing really great things, but it was really fun to be apart of the event and we are very appreciative to have partnered with them.”

But, even with all the new branding, cross promotion and enhancements done for this year’s Delray Beach Open, there is still work to be done for next year’s event.


“My favorite aspects were the little ideas that infiltrated our downtown,” said Bolyston. “From the beginning, we have always felt that during the nine days of the tournament downtown Delray Beach should drip tennis. This year, we had cutouts of Andy Roddick around town as well as over 10,000 tennis ball coasters at all the bars. Next year, we hope to take that to another level.”

Weekend Best Bets: Tennis, 60 Days of Fun and Elton

Emmy winner Dick Hyman will be at the Arts Garage tonight and Friday

Emmy winner Dick Hyman will be at the Arts Garage tonight and Friday

Support Tomorrow’s Promise

Tomorrow’s Promise is a charter school originally founded by two members of the Delray Beach Police Department, the late, great Officer Johnny Pun and Community Service Officer Fred Glass.

For more than a decade now, the school– under the leadership of our friend Marjorie Waldo– has done a great job with kids who need a little extra attention.

On Saturday, you can support this great cause, eat healthy food and listen to great music at a benefit hosted by the Delray Beach Initiative, a new group formed to raise money to help Delray kids.

From 6:30-9:30pm visit DIG restaurant, 7777 E. Atlantic Ave, and listen to the songs of Steve Martel, Jimmy Durkin and Max Dubose.  A $10 suggested donation will benefit the school.

Bring your friends and spread the word.

Tennis Finals

This weekend marks the semifinals and finals of the Delray Beach Open.

It has been a glorious week of tennis at the Delray Beach Tennis Stadium with personalities ranging from Andy Roddick and Kei Nishikori to the Bryan Brothers and breakout American star Steve Johnson delighting fans.

There’s still time to catch the end of the event and experience tennis up close and personal–the Delray way.

Visit for tickets and more information.

60 Days of Fun in Boca

Well folks, we’re in the midst of The City of Boca Raton’s 60 Days of Family Fun. And fun it is with music, live entertainment and family-centric activities at Downtown Boca’s Mizner Park Amphitheater. 

Here’s a brief summary of what you can expect in the coming weeks.

Sunday, February 23 – 2 p.m. & 4 p.m.

Arts Power’s Production of:  Are You My Mother?: This national touring theatre production brings to life the beloved children’s book by P.D. Eastman with two matinee performances.  The first event will take place under the “Big Tent,” bring blankets or chairs. Chairs will also be available on site for $5.00.

Saturday, March 1 – 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

1st Annual Health & Wellness Experience: Presented by the City of Boca Raton, CBS12 and Sun Sentinel, the 1st Annual Health and Wellness Experience will be the “must-see, must attend” health and wellness event in South Florida.  The free, interactive event will offer something for every age and every interest including medical screenings, healthy cooking demonstrations, celebrity appearances and activities for the kids.  As part of National Bike Month a kid’s safety & fun zone will offer bike helmet safety tips, demonstrations and fittings.  For more information, please call 561.881.0702 or visit   The event is FREE and takes place under the tent.

All events are rain or shine.  There is limited parking in Mizner Park garages.  Attendees are encouraged to park for free and walk from City Hall and the libraries. For more information, visit or  For recorded information call (561) 544-8600.

Early Elton at Crest Theater

We love Elton John.

In fact, Dave has a collection of eyewear that honors the legendary rocker.

But we really prefer his early years to the late career schmaltz. At least I do. Dave’s middle name is Schmaltz.

That’s why we are recommending the show “Early Elton” at the Crest Theatre, this Friday at 8 p.m.

This dynamic show is a tribute to the music Elton John wrote and sang during his “Trio Period “ with Dee Murray and Nigel Olsson, from 1970-1972.

 Featuring Jeff Kazee (piano and vocals), Rich Pagano (drums and vocals) and John Conte (bass and vocals), the show is sure to appeal to those who love Elton’s work. 

As the story goes, Elton’s label didn’t have the funds to send him out on a U.S. tour with a full band, but Elton needed to promote his pending releases. 

He brought Dee and Nigel on board and rearranged the songs and vocals to fit within the limitations of this trio. Suddenly, a new sound emerged that was both raw and poignant.

The rest as they history.

For more information, visit

Arts Garage has packed weekend

The venerable Arts Garage offers two cool performers this weekend.

Winner of an Emmy and seven “Most Valuable Player Awards” from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, Dick Hyman performs two distinctly different concerts this week.

  THU 2/20 | 7:30PM – History of Jazz.

FRI 2/21 | 8PM – The Great American Songbook.

Visit for tickets.

On Saturday night, Manuel Valera and New Cuban Express will play at 8 p.m.

Lauded by Billboard magazine and others, Valera is a rising star in the jazz world and he will be right here in Delray.

Have a great and safe weekend!


Head over to Third and Third tonight for their first anniversary party. Great food and music and walk over to nearby Artist’s Alley at Third Avenue and Third Street to see and meet some great local artists.