Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘World Team Tennis’ tag

1986-2013 Sacramento Capitals

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Sacramento CapitalsWorld Team Tennis (1986-2013)

Born: 1986 – WTT expansion franchise.
Died: February 4, 2014 – The Capitals relocate to Las Vegas, NV

Arenas:

  • 1986: ARCO Arena
  • 1987-2001: Gold River Racquet Club (2,600)
  • 2002-2006: Sunrise Mall
  • 2007-2010: Westfield Galleria (2,400)
  • 2011-2013: Sunrise Mall (2,500)

Team Colors:

  • 1986: Red & Blue
  • 2012: Red, Blue & Yellow

Owners:

 

The Sacramento Capitals were, for many years, the oldest and most successful franchise in Billie Jean King’s long-running World Team Tennis promotion.  The Capitals played a league record 28 seasons and their six championships (1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002 & 2007) also remain a league-best.

The Capitals began life in the summer of 1986 at ARCO Arena, home to the NBA’s Sacramento Kings.  During the 1970’s and 80’s, many Team Tennis franchises played in big NHL and NBA arenas, but as the league’s business model scaled down and stabilized in the 1990’s, most clubs shifted to country clubs and resort hotels with bleacher-style seating for a few thousand spectators.  The Caps followed this model too, leaving ARCO after one season for the Gold River Racquet Club in 1987.  After 15 summers at Gold River, the Caps spent most of the 2000’s playing at shopping center parking lots where they would erect and dismantle temporary stadia every July.

World Team Tennis is a co-ed sport and the doubles game factors prominently in the scoring system.  Most WTT players are relatively unknown tour professionals, often doubles specialists.  The league’s marketing plan is reliant on the signing of several “marquee players” each summer who serve as tent pole attractions to fill seats around the league.  Andre Agassi was one such player for the Caps, playing three summers for Sacramento from 2002 to 2004.  Anna Kournikova appeared for Sacramento during their final championship season in 2007.  Michael Chang played for the Caps in 2009 and 2010.  In other years, the Capitals featured no household names, but Northern California tennis fans could look forward to seeing superstars such as Pete Sampras and Venus Williams who came through town with opposing teams.

As stable as the Capitals seemed during their near-three decade residency, the franchise went through numerous ownership changes in its final years as the team’s various financial backers went through legal and financial troubles.  Long-time owner Lonnie Nielson lost control of the team in 2010 after being charged in an embezzling scheme in his real estate business.  He would be sentenced to seven years in prison in 2011.  Nielson’s partner Bob Cook took over the Caps on his own in 2011, but declared bankruptcy at the end of the year after his Le Rivage Hotel development in Sacramento went sour.  The worst, however, was yet to come.

After Cook went bust, a former owner of the team, Ramey Osborne, stepped back into the picture and rescued the team with the help of a man named Deepal Wannakuwatte.  Wannakuwatte presented himself as a successful entrepreneur who built a $100 million medical supply business in Sacramento.  In fact, Wannakuwatte’s surgical glove company was practically worthless and his real source of wealth was a decade-long $150 million Ponzi scheme.  No one was any wiser during the Capitals’ final two seasons under Wannakuwatte’s ownership in 2012 and 2013.

In early February 2014, Wannakuwatte announced that the franchise would move to Las Vegas and become the Las Vegas Neon after 28 years in Sacramento.  Less than two weeks after he held his introductory press conference in Sin City, the feds closed in and arrested him.  World TeamTennis revoked and disbanded the Las Vegas Neon franchise on March 5th, 2014, one month and one day after the club was introduced.  Wannakuwatte plead guilty to fraud charges in May 2014 and is awaiting sentencing, which is expected to be upwards of 20 years in prison.

 

==YouTube==

Sacramento Capitals promotional video for sponsorship sales.  Circa 2011 or 2012.

 

==Links==

World TeamTennis Media Guides

World TeamTennis Programs

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1985-1994 San Antonio Racquets

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San Antonio RacquetsWorld TeamTennis (1985-1994)

Born: 1985 – WTT expansion franchise.
Died: Postseason 1994 – The Racquets cease operations.

Venue: McFarlin Tennis Center

Team Colors: Grey & Warm Red

Owner: Leo Rose

 

The San Antonio Racquets were a long-standing club in World TeamTennis, the summer time co-ed tennis league headed by Billie Jean King.  The Racquets won two league championships (1986 and 1989) during their ten-year run in the league.

Top players included Australian Kim Warwick, a 1980 Australian Open singles finalist, and American Sammy Giammalva.  Warwick was the league’s Male MVP in 1986 and 1987.  Giammalva earned the same honor for the 1991 season.

The San Antonio Racquets folded following the 1994 season.

Racquets principal backer Leo Rose was a former owner of the San Antonio Spurs basketball team.

 

==Links==

World Team Tennis Media Guides

World Team Tennis Programs

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Written by andycrossley

May 18th, 2014 at 5:48 pm

2014 Las Vegas Neon

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Las Vegas NeonWorld TeamTennis (2014)

Born: February 4, 2014 – The Sacramento Capitals relocate to Las Vegas.
Died: March 5, 2014 – World TeamTennis terminates the Neon franchise.

Venue: Darling Tennis Center

Team Colors:

Owner: Deepal Wannakuwatte

 

The brief 30-day lifespan of the Las Vegas Neon was an embarrassing footnote in the long history of World TeamTennis.  The niche co-ed tennis league lost its oldest franchise in February 2014 when the Sacramento Capitals moved to Las Vegas after 28 seasons in Northern California.  Although the Capitals endured nearly three decades in the turbulent, high turnover league, the team’s last few seasons were anything but stable, with persistent ownership, financial and venue problems.  The team’s last owner in Sacramento was Deepal Wannakuwatte, a medical supply company owner who took over the Capitals in 2011.  Wannakuwatte announced the move to Las Vegas on February 4, 2014, citing the Capitals stadium woes as the primary reason for the move.  The Capitals played the 2013 season in a shopping mall parking lot.

Barely three weeks after announcing the move to Vegas, Deepal Wannakuwatte was arrested on charges of running a decade-long $150 million Ponzi scheme.  World TeamTennis revoked and disbanded the Las Vegas Neon franchise on March 5th, 2014, one month and one day after the club was introduced.  Wannakuwatte plead guilty to fraud charges in May 2014 and is awaiting sentencing, which is expected to be upwards of 20 years  prison.

 

==Links==

World TeamTennis Media Guides

World TeamTennis Programs

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Written by andycrossley

May 13th, 2014 at 1:52 pm

1982-1983 Dallas Stars

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World Team Tennis (1982-1983)

Born: 1981 – Team Tennis expansion franchise.
Died: Postseason 1983 – The Stars cease operations.

Arena: Reunion Arena

Team Colors: Navy & White

Owner: Robert Dunn

 

A largely forgotten two-year entry in Team Tennis.  You won’t find much, if anything, that’s survived into the internet era about these Dallas Stars, who played the 1982 and 1983 seasons of Team Tennis at Reunion Arena.

The 1982 Stars roster was headlined by South African (and former Texas Longhorn NCAA champion) Kevin Curren.  Curren would go on to win the Men’s Doubles championship at the U.S. Open in the summer of 1982, paired with his college doubles partner and Stars teammate Steve Denton.  Of the pair, Curren was the more distinguished singles player, peaking at a world #5 ranking in 1985.

The other two members of the Stars’ 1982 four-player co-ed roster were doubles specialists Anne Smith and Sharon Walsh.  The Stars won the league title in 1982, defeating the Phoenix Sunsets in the playoff final.

No information is available about the 1983 team.

The Stars folded quietly after their second campaign in 1983.

 

 

==Links==

World Team Tennis Media Guides

World Team Tennis Programs

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The other

Written by andycrossley

March 24th, 2014 at 10:08 pm

1982 Phoenix Sunsets

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Phoenix SunsetsWorld Team Tennis (1982)

Born: 1981 – Team Tennis expansion franchise.
Died: Postseason 1982 – The Sunsets cease operations.

Arena: Veterans Memorial Coliseum

Team Colors: Burgundy & White

Owner: Jock Miller

 

The Phoenix Sunsets tennis  team existed for one year (well, actually, one month) in Billie Jean King’s Team Tennis league in the summer of 1982.  The Team Tennis format called for four-person teams (two men, two women).   A match consisted of five sets – one each for men’s and women’s singles, men’s and women’s doubles and mixed doubles.  The entire league season took place in the month of July 1982, during which time the Sunsets hosted a few matches at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, including the league-wide playoffs.

The Sunsets roster consisted of veteran tour pros Tom Gullikson, Ann Kiyomura, Andy Pattison and Pam Teeguarden.

Pattison, who served the dual role of Player-Coach, previously played for the defunct Phoenix Racquets (1975-1978) of the 1970’s version of World Team Tennis, which was a much grander and more ambitious operation than the 1980’s re-boot of the league.  (Both the Racquets and the rest of the original league folded in November 1978 after years of steep financial losses).

The Sunsets finished the 1982 season as runners-up to the Dallas Stars.

The Sunsets did not return for the 1983 season.  World Team Tennis took a third crack at Phoenix in 1992 with the formation of the Phoenix Smash (1992-1994), who lasted for three seasons and featuredJimmy Connors.

 

==Links==

World Team Tennis Media Guides

World Team Tennis Programs

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Written by andycrossley

March 24th, 2014 at 9:20 pm