The first half of the 2013-2014 IRT season has been exciting, with more events than ever before. Over 70 tournaments, the return of the Tournament of Champions sponsored by ProKennex, and International Racquetball Tour (IRT) events from South America to Canada join favorites on calendar allowing fans, players and families the chance to catch elite racquetball action near them. IRT President, Jason Mannino, estimates that the total number of stops will actually exceed 90, starting with the mid-September opener, Kansas City’s NovaSors Ghost of Georgetown Championships.
Before the first half of the season wrapped up, the top players will have trekked to the newest Tier 1 in Garden City, KS (moved up from a Tier 3) and returned to the US Open in Minnesota for Grand Slam pro ranking points and prizes. By season’s end, over 3,000 people will likely have entered Tier 1 stops alone with 500 entrants stepping on the hardwood to challenge Tier 1 pros.
Mannino credits a special effort to expand opportunities outside of the U.S. resulting in more international events on the itinerary than ever before. He also points to the work of Adam Karp, VP Event Development for bolstering the Satellite Tour, which includes Tier 2 – Tier 5 events. including three in Mexico and longtime favorites like the Longhorn Open in Austin, Texas. The annual event sells out well in advance at 325 players and wait list of up to another 50-100 participants.
Karp estimates the over 56 lower-tiered tournaments will showcase 1,000 players testing their skills in the pro singles bracket alone. Over 7,000 total entrants will participate. “Satellite tournaments give players more chances to test their games against the pros, helping them attain the experience to take on top competitors.” In addition to providing more events, the lower tier events give local venues opportunities to host their favorite top players internationally, including in Costa Rica, Mexico, and Canada as well as in the United States.
The numbers for this year’s IRT schedule are big as excitement for the new season surges. The popularity of racquetball is also on an upswing, made possible by the hard work of the tournament directors. This year there are many directors who are holding two or more events this season. Between the surging energy and the sheer number of entries that each event brings, the season promises to exceed expectations as the IRT continues to grow.