By Jerry Magee, special to USTA.com
SAN DIEGO -- The sport of tennis has been stubbornly averse to change – so much so that when one can think and move in a progressive manner, the tennis world lauds loudly. Billie Jean King is one such heralded visionary, as her World TeamTennis and its unique team format has endured and expanded since its inception in 1973. One can also cite the minds of Jimmy Van Alen, who hit on tiebreakers – making the game more TV-friendly - and Walter Head, who in 1976 introduced a racquet composed of something other than conventional wood.
Willliam J. Kellogg exists also a type of visionary - a man capable of identifying opportunities and acting to explore them.
That the ITF Seniors World Championships is being contested in San Diego from Feb. 6-20 is the result of Kellogg moving to obtain an event expected to have an economic impact of $2.5 million in the San Diego area.
A tennis visionary must look over the net, past the baseline and on into that magical sphere where opportunity can be seized, if only one can recognize it. The team phase of the event breaks down to 10 separate events: Five for men, five for women, in competitions for age groups 35, 40, 45, 50 and 55. In San Diego, these matches are to be offered on 83 courts at seven venues, with 600 to 700 players from 30 countries competing.
13,464 balls await the players, all to be active participants in this battle for international supremacy.
The logistics may not be as staggering as they were for the Normandy Landing, but they're close. Kellogg assembled 150 volunteers when a U.S.-Romania Davis Cup tie was conducted at the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club, of which he is President, in February 2006. For this event, Kellogg has had to collect 500 volunteers.
"The Davis Cup comes with a package," Kellogg remembered. "For us, this is different in that it is a first-time event that has never been here before."
Kellogg, though, moves boldly when he is positioned to do something that can enhance tennis' image. His family has had associations with the game for generations: His grandfather, Williams Scripps Kellogg, was the first captain of the U.S. Federation Cup team. Kellogg himself has long occupied chairs within the USTA and the ITF, including for five years serving as captain of his country's Italia Cup squad (men 35).
Once a teaching pro, Kellogg tries to play tennis daily. In the individual tournament that follows the team phase of the Seniors World Championships, he is to play singles, doubles and mixed doubles in the 55s.
Kellogg's involvement with this year's tournament began when an ITF official asked him if he could recommend a site in the U.S. "I tried to find places that had very large facilities," he said. "Basically, I was about to give up."
Then Kellogg thought of his own area and set to work. He began calling around, inquiring of clubs in San Diego County if they would be willing to commit their courts to this effort.
"People started saying yes," Kellogg said.
Kellogg next reached the San Diego Sports Commission, made up of local business leaders. The commission's mission is to deal with means of expanding the city's reach for sports ventures - naturally, the commission was interested.
"Sure. Not knowing what we were getting into," said Al Kidd, the commission's president. "But this is the kind of thing we like getting into. It puts economic impact into so many areas."
Kidd accompanied Kellogg to the U.S. Open in 2011 and dispatched the commission's project manager, Kristen Auten, to New Zealand, where the ITF Seniors was scheduled in Timaru, Ashburton and Christchurch. On the second day of play in Christchurch, the city was ravaged by an earthquake.
"I was in a building and the building across the street collapsed," said Auten. She had to be lifted out of there by the New Zealand military.
To the commission has gone the burden of registering players, booking facilities and paying for many services, including transportation, a major item, lunch for officials and medical services.
10 years ago, as Kellogg recalls, he was checking in players for the ITF Senior Championships in Philadelphia. A chap from Russia showed up who did not have a cent of American currency - although he did have rubles - had not booked a hotel, had no transportation and could not speak a word of English.
Kellogg rustled up somebody who could speak Russian and the young man was accommodated.
"Those challenges are there," Kellogg noted. For the 2012 tournament, translators who speak five different languages - like former WTA standout Lucia Stark – are in place to meet such issues head on.