US OPEN Racquetball Championships Returns to Minneapolis

Predicted to pump $4 million into local economy.

More than 800 of the world’s top professional and amateur racquetball players will descend on Minneapolis once again Oct. 4-9 for the 2011 US OPEN Racquetball Championships.

After 14 years in Memphis, Tenn., the US OPEN Racquetball Championships moved to Minneapolis in 2010 with great success. The region saw more than $4 million in economic impact last year, and that number is expected to increase as an estimated 3,000 spectators will join the 800 players in the Twin Cities for the week-long event. Of the entrants in the tournament, more than 100 are expected to be players from Minnesota.

With ball speeds reaching 180 miles per hour, racquetball is truly the world’s fastest sport. An all-glass portable court will be brought piece-by-piece into Life Time Fitness Target Center in downtown Minneapolis and set-up in a one-of-a-kind racquetball stadium.

“This is an incredibly exciting time in the history of the US OPEN and the sport of racquetball,” said US OPEN Event Director Doug Ganim. “Minneapolis opened their arms to our growing sport last year,  and the US OPEN is now positioned for continued growth for many years to come here in the Twin Cities.”

The US OPEN partners with Minnesota-based Life Time Fitness to host the tournament in three of the company’s fitness centers in the Minneapolis area. The professional divisions are contested at Life Time Fitness Target Center, while the amateur divisions are played among Life Time Fitness St. Louis Park and the Minneapolis Life Time Athletic Club.

Defending his championship in the Men’s Professional Division will be six-time US OPEN Champion Kane Waselenchuk (Edmonton, Canada). Kane owns a pair of three US OPEN win streaks, the first from 2003 – 2005 and his current streak from 2008 – 2010. He also is in the midst of a 117 match win streak on the International Racquetball Tour (IRT). Waselenchuk last lost a match in which he played in January 2009.

Rhonda Rajsich is the two-time defending Women’s Professional Division champion. In addition to her wins in 2009 & 2010, Rhonda (Phoenix, Ariz.) won the US OPEN in 2003 and 2007. She is the reigning United States and World Champion in women’s singles. Rajsich played collegiate basketball at Stephen F. Austin University and passed up a chance to play in the WNBA to focus on becoming one of the most dominate female racquetball players of all time.

The Classic Professional Racquetball Tour (CPRT) will offer men 40 years of age or older a chance to shine on racquetball’s top stage. The CPRT draw at the US OPEN will be highlighted by former major league baseball player Jeff Conine. Jeff played 17 years in the majors, highlighted by being named the All-Star Game M.V.P. in 1994 and a pair of World Series titles (1997 & 2003) with the Florida Marlins. Before his professional baseball career Jeff found success on the racquetball court, becoming the United States junior boys’ champion in 1985.