Hamera Shabbir, Contributing Photographer

After 31 years of hosting premier tournaments through the Tennis Foundation of Connecticut’s lease with Yale, the Connecticut Tennis Center is set to reopen as the Westville Music Bowl on April 30. 

The CTC was completed in 1991 with a price-tag of around $18 million dollars paid by the state of Connecticut. The CTC has hosted tennis events in the Elm City for three decades, including the Volvo International Tournament, the Pilot Pen International, the New Haven Open at Yale and the Connecticut Open. Since its construction, however, the CTC also hosted other events besides tennis tournaments and will continue to fulfill this function as Premier Facilities LLC converts the venue into the Westville Music Bowl.

“They wanted to attract the best players in the world,” Mark Simon ARC ’72, the designer of the neighboring Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center’s renovation, noted regarding the design process behind the CTC.

The Tennis Foundation of Connecticut intended for the center to bring tennis to New Haven while the sport enjoyed global popularity in the 1980s and ’90s. In line with that goal, the center included state-of-the-art features, such as premier DecoTurf surfacing on the courts, that set up the venue to host a tournament as a launchpad for competition leading up to the US Open each summer. However, the tournaments hosted in the center cycled through a number of sponsors throughout the years and struggled with financial issues.

Just a year before its closing, the center hosted a tournament that lacked a title sponsor. By then, it had lost the Association of Tennis Professionals component of competition — the men’s tour — and only hosted the Women’s Tennis Association. While multiple Grand Slam winners like Simona Halep and Petra Kvitová attended the event, the Connecticut Open left New Haven the following year, citing economic reasons

A Oracle Challenger Series event was the last professional tournament hosted in the center, which lasted from Sept. 2-8, 2019. Women’s team member Chelsea Kung ’23 played the tournament with two fellow Yalies. 

“I can’t say that I saw anybody huge because they took away the Connecticut Open, which was a lot bigger of a WTA tournament than the [2019 Oracle Challenger Series],” Kung said. “I don’t think that huge players got to come.”

However, the stadium did not sit empty for long.

The New Haven City Plan Commission approved plans to convert the tennis center to the proposed Westville Music Bowl in Oct. 2019. While Yale owns the land that the Music Bowl is built upon, approval was needed from Westville residents as well as the City of New Haven. 

Replacing the Connecticut Tennis Center at 45 Yale Street is the new Westville Music Bowl. (Hamera Shabbir, Contributing Photographer)

According to Gregory Zullo, director of third party rentals and events for Yale Athletics, “Yale Conferences and Events is the liaison between the concert group [and Yale]” and that Yale Athletics was uninvolved in the venue’s conversion.

Kelly Vailette, senior program operations coordinator at Yale Conferences and Events did not respond to request for comment. Steve Fontana, deputy economic development director of the city of New Haven, said that he was unable to comment on the private project. 

The president of Premier Facilities LLC, Keith Mahler, remarked that working with the Yale Corporation and City Plan Commission was “excellent” and that the firm is “thrilled to be in control of the Connecticut Tennis Center to convert it.”

Currently, the Westville Music Bowl’s website features only one event, the Tedeschi Trucks Band: Wheels of Soul 2021 show, postponed to Jul. 17. However, Mahler emphasized that more information about performing acts would be available after the venue’s opening. 

The Connecticut Tennis Center is located at 45 Yale Ave., two miles from the Yale College campus.

Dominique Castanheira contributed reporting.

Hamera Shabbir | hamera.shabbir@yale.edu