Volunteers help Taco Bell run like clockwork
Each year, hundreds of tennis matches are played during the Taco Bell Western Slope Open.
Every match that’s played is possible because of the work of several volunteers who not only give their time during the tournament, but for weeks before.
Several of those volunteers were at the Elliott Tennis Center at Mesa State College earlier this week, preparing for the tournament, which begins at 1 p.m. Monday at the recently remodeled facility.
Junior matches are starting one day earlier than usual. Tournament director Lena Elliott said her children, who also help run the tournament, convinced her by doing that, it would ease the conflict of juniors playing in family events, which will start after junior matches are completed.
Instead of using courts all over town, Elliott plans to use only two sites, the Elliott Tennis Center and Canyon View Park. Players need to report to the Elliott Tennis Center, where they will be assigned a site and court.
Should weather cause delays or postponements, Elliott will use the Clinton Smith courts at Lincoln Park and Grand Junction High School.
Court assignments are only one of the duties volunteers take on during the tournament.
Wednesday, workers were checking brackets for any possible match conflicts for players in more than one event, posting brackets on the walls at Brownson Arena and organizing areas for trophies and T-shirts.
Elliott said 75 volunteers help with everything from recording scores, resolving match conflicts, assigning matches to sites, directing players to their courts and being roving umpires, prepared to handle on-court issues.
Many of the volunteers have helped for more than a dozen years, including Evelyn Davis, Anne Meyer, Nancy Flannery, Val Lambdin and Nancy Johnson, who did a lot of the prep work.
Davis usually helps find and resolve conflicts for players with matches at the same time.
“Resolving conflicts is the hardest part, especially with doubles,” Davis said. “It involves four people and they usually play other matches in other divisions. It has a trickle-down effect that affects everybody. I can’t say there are any fond memories of that.”
Resolving conflicts is what makes the Western Slope Open one of the most unique tournaments in the state of Colorado, Meyer said.
“Lena is the only (tournament director) who tries to honor any previous conflicts the best she can,” Meyer said. “(Wednesday), we’ll go through and try to get as many of those honored as we can.
“The fact that she even allows people to put down conflicts (that don’t involve matches) is amazing.”
Entries have increased by nearly 200 over last year, with 592 entries.
The draws were set by a new United States Tennis Association computerized system, a far cry from the early days, when the Elliotts would do the draws at home, with wooden chips assigned to players and placed on the bracket.
Flannery and Lambdin split up assigning match times and sites and double-checking for any last-minute conflicts.
“There’s some down time, then hurry, hurry, hurry,” Flannery said. “We have some quiet time followed by chaos.”
Flannery and Davis don’t just randomly match names to times and court locations. They are conscientious of families and attempt to keep them at the same site.
“It’s nice to be able to go watch the matches in between setting them up,” Flannery said. “Since we’re here, we get to request to (assign) our family or friends to play here so we can watch the matches.”
They won’t have to go far to watch matches this year with the new facility.
“This facility is incredible,” Elliott said of the center’s office, where she’ll set up shop for the week. “It’s bright, air-conditioned and we’re close to the courts.”