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Home Field: International Tennis Hall of Fame, Newport, RI

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As the keeper of tennis’ heritage, it goes without saying that the International Tennis Hall of Fame (ITHF) focuses on the sport’s history. ITHF’s signature event, the Infosys Hall of Fame Open, is the only Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) tournament outside of Europe to be played on traditional grass courts. However, preservation doesn’t just involve safeguarding tennis’ past but also protecting the sport’s — and the earth’s — future. 

In the past few years, the Hall of Fame has really upped its game when it comes to sustainability. In 2020, the ITHF turned to a fellow Newport, RI-based organization, 11th Hour Racing, to be the Official Sustainability Sponsor of the Infosys Hall of Fame Open. The company follows a core mission that utilizes sports to spotlight the need to improve our planet’s ecosystems, particularly in the oceans. 

“… we believe in harnessing the power of sport to create change and engage people on the critical concept that sustainable behavior on land is key to ocean restoration,” Rob MacMillan, 11th Hour Racing’s co-founder and president, stated in a press release. “There is no better place to draw this connection to the sea than in Newport, where the ocean surrounds us.”

Photo Courtesy International Tennis Hall of Fame   

The sponsorship deal with 11th Hour allowed the ITHF to embark on a broad agenda to build up its environmental programs at the tennis tournament. A switch, for example, was implemented to have all printed materials and custodial paper items made from recycled materials, and cleaning products needed some type of green certification. 

Upgraded recycling operations increased the composting of food and landscaping waste and eliminated the use of single-use plastic bags, bottles, and straws.

Furthermore, caterers and on-site vendors had to adhere to a sustainability charter. These changes contributed to the Open diverting almost 75% of its waste at the 2022 tournament.

Photo Courtesy International Tennis Hall of Fame 

The results were so impressive that the ITHF decided to make 11th Hour a year-round sponsor for the Hall of Fame. This expansion of its sustainability campaign kick-started some new projects, with several being public-facing. More emphasis was placed on educating fans about how they can live a greener lifestyle, including training volunteers to become sustainability ambassadors. Furthermore, installing water refilling stations aimed to inspire fans to bring more eco-friendly refillable water bottles. 

The ITHF expanded its waste management system to feature weighing and tracking all recyclables, compost, and waste.

Another plan concerns offsetting the Infosys Hall of Fame Open’s entire carbon footprint, incorporating guest travel, player travel, on-site fuel use, electricity, and waste. Fans, too, can participate in lowering the ITHF’s carbon emissions by buying their tickets to the Open online. 

“It is vital that we do our part to minimize our footprint and act responsibly throughout all business units at the International Tennis Hall of Fame,” Dan Faber, ITHF CEO, stated at the announcement of 11th Hour’s expanded sponsorship. “Today, the International Tennis Hall of Fame is taking an important step forward in our sustainability efforts to become a leader in Rhode Island and in the sport of tennis.”

Photo Courtesy International Tennis Hall of Fame 

In 2022, the ITHF announced another initiative with an eye to the future. The $12 million “Tennis Forever” campaign epitomizes the Hall’s mission that looks to the past and the future. It contains projects that improve and grow the Hall of Fame’s historical collections. More hands-on preservation work involves resurfacing all 13 of the ITHF’s 140-year-old grass courts, seeding them with a new strain of perennial ryegrass and Kentucky bluegrass. Environmental improvements are integral in updating the HVAC, roofing, and other structural maintenance. 

Another forward-looking undertaking is bolstering the development of the local chapter of TeamFAME, a National Junior Tennis & Learning Network program that uses the sport as a way to provide wellness, academic, and character-building support to under-resourced youths. Since 2018, TeamFame has worked primarily with middle school students in the local Newport County school district and aims to provide services that fully span grades K–12. 

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