Hey, tennis may overtake NHL. or, what NHL??? Rogers takes over sponsorship of ATP Tennis Masters Canada event 11/02/2005 2:07:00 PM -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- TORONTO (CP) - In finally landing a new title sponsor for the ATP Tennis Masters Canada event, Tennis Canada has at long last recovered the guaranteed revenue stream it needs to develop the sport at the grassroots level. Rogers Communications Inc., acquired the naming rights for the annual men's event as part of a four-year multimillion-dollar deal announced Friday. The agreement runs from 2005 through 2008 and also extends the corporate giant's sponsorship of the country's annual WTA event. Both tournaments, which alternate between Toronto and Montreal on a yearly basis, will be called the Rogers Cup. "Corporate sponsorships, corporate activity and ticket sales at our events is where we get 90 to 95 per cent of our revenue," said Jack Graham, Tennis Canada's chairman. "So this is absolutely critical." The men's event has been without a title sponsor since 2001, when Swiss marketing firm ISL went bankrupt. That was a huge blow to Tennis Canada, particularly after 1999 Federal anti-tobacco legislation ended Imperial Tobacco's 21-year sponsorship of both the men's and women's events. "This has been a long time in coming," said Stacey Allaster, Tennis Canada's vice-president and tournament director. "We're just thrilled. "The title sponsor makes the event more profitable, so that we can give more money to tennis development." Rogers has sponsored the women's event since 2001, and its initial agreement ran through 2006. As part of that deal, Rogers had to tell Tennis Canada this year whether it wanted to extend the sponsorship. "They finally realized that if they're going to own tennis, they should own all of it and the entire company should get involved," said Allaster. The deal caps a busy two weeks of investing in sports properties for Rogers. First, it closed a $25-million Cdn deal to buy the SkyDome, renaming it the Rogers Centre, and gave the Toronto Blue Jays $210 million US to spend on payroll over the next three years. Then Rogers teamed up with rival Bell Globemedia to win the TV rights for the 2010 and 2012 Olympics for $153 million US. "I think everybody is interested in sports, all members of the family," said owner Ted Rogers. "That's important to because we're a family company." The Rogers Cup events will be promoted at the company's stores and through its various wireless, cable and Internet services. Tennis Canada hopes that helps boost ticket sales and further increase profits, which will go into its four-year strategic development plan. Funding for grassroots level tennis had become scarce in the days without a title sponsor. "It was post 9-11, it was difficult economic times," said Allaster. Under its four-year strategic plan, Tennis Canada plans to: -Give more support to top-level players; -Increase support to provincial associations; -Build more tennis development centres; -Increase number and quality of coaches; -Increase presence in parks and communities. The deal with Rogers also calls for the start of a Rookie Tour, which will build on an existing Ontario Tennis Association program. The program's goal will be expand the network of kids playing competitive tennis and feed the most talented one into the high-level development programs. It will be expanded outside the province if it succeeds. "We said, 'Let's pilot this. Let's see if this is something that's really going to work,"' said Allaster. "This is that entry-level program for kids who just want to begin playing competitive tennis. We want to make it fun and motivating and hopefully find a few diamonds in the rough." The men's Rogers Cup runs from Aug. 8 to 14 at Montreal's Stade Uniprix. The women's event takes place at Toronto's Rexall Centre the following week.