Lacking their desired venue, the Austin Aces will relocate to Southern California — their former home — after two seasons in Central Texas.
Owner Lorne Abony announced Monday that the team will move to Newport Beach, Calif., and compete during the 2016 Mylan World TeamTennis season as the Orange County Breakers. Abony purchased the Breakers in 2013 and moved them to Austin before the 2014 season.
The Aces’ promotional efforts in 2014 centered on Austin native Andy Roddick, who played in seven matches as the team failed to qualify for the playoffs. Last season, without Roddick, Austin reached the WTT championship match before falling to the Washington Kastles.
The Aces, however, never found the right venue in Austin.
“For these teams, it’s a big consideration,” said Rosie Crews, WTT’s senior vice president of communications. “It’s often their biggest line item after the players. The franchise had some connections on the West Coast and decided it was a good fit for them.”
The Aces played in two different locales during their time in Central Texas.
During the inaugural season, Austin played at Cedar Park Center and reported drawing 2,155 fans per match, though Hardison said it probably was closer to 1,300.
The team moved to Gregory Gym on the University of Texas campus for 2015. The move was designed to please Aces fans, who desired a more central location in Austin, but Aces General Manager Allen Hardison said attendance hovered near 950 fans per match. That includes a Western Conference championship match in which the first 1,000 fans got in for free with an online code.
Hardison said that in order for a WTT franchise to survive, it has to have a venue that meets established criteria for location, venue type and availability, and that ideally offers an outdoor setting.
“We had a hard time checking all of those off the list,” Hardison said. “And we were really looking for a permanent home during the two seasons in Austin.”
Hardison said all those criteria will be met in the franchise’s new home. Officials with a venue that has yet to be announced reached out to the Aces and fit what Abony sought.
“It’s what a WTT franchise needs,” Hardison said. “It really makes the move an easy decision when you look at the venue. And the venue and the venue deal are important to how a franchise makes money.
Hardison was complimentary of the staffs at both Cedar Park Center and Gregory Gym, and he also was quick to point out that the fans who supported the Aces were “some of the best in the league.”
“It just all comes down to the venue,” he said. “Austin is a great city, a great tennis community, and can support professional sports, but without the right permanent venue, it didn’t work.”
With a few changes, Crews said, Austin would be ideal for a WTT franchise.
“We’d love to have a team back there in the future,” she said. “Austin is a great fit for what WTT wants to be. We just need a couple of those other factors to play out for it to work.”