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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Philadelphia Freedoms


St. Joe’s partners with local professional tennis team

Saint Joseph’s University announced a partnership with the Philadelphia Freedoms of Mylan World Team Tennis on Jan. 24. The Freedoms will begin playing their home games at the Michael J. Hagan Arena this summer.

Before partnering with St. Joe’s, the Freedoms played their home matches at Villanova University. They will return to Philadelphia for their home matches for the first time since the team’s inaugural season in 1974.

“I think it’s a great location,” said Barbara Perry, senior vice president and general manager of the Freedoms. “You know, we’ve played at Villanova for the last six years, so we’re sort of on the Main Line. Being at Saint Joseph’s, we’re not losing our Main Line audience, but we’re opening the city audience, hopefully. We’re excited about that opportunity as well.”

Billie Jean King, who became the world’s top-ranked women’s tennis player in 1967 and won 39 Grand Slam titles during her career, was on the original Freedoms team as a player-coach. After she was signed, her close friend Sir Elton John decided to write and release the song “Philadelphia Freedom,” in King’s honor and as an anthem to the team.

Although King has been retired for 27 years she is still active with the Freedoms as the team’s owner. Both King and University President Mark C. Reed, Ed.D., were in attendance for the announcement. Reed and King both ceremoniously made the first serve by hitting a tennis ball across the new home court.

“Hagan Arena is more than just a home court for the Hawks,” said Reed. “We’re positioning the arena as a multi-purpose convocation center with new and exciting opportunities for the surrounding region to visit our campus and enjoy some of the fantastic sights and sounds of the City Avenue District.”

Hagan Arena will require a different set-up for when the Freedoms are playing.

“It’s a great sized venue for what we do,” Perry said. “The way we set it up, it’s going to be a little different. It’s not like what you see when you go to a basketball game there. It will be reconfigured somewhat. So we’ll probably set it up for something just under 3,000 seats. That’s a great capacity for us. Then, in addition, we do a lot of hospitality. We’re big on that. We have a lot of companies that sponsor us, so we need to have space for that. So the way we will set up the venue lends itself nicely to some great hospitality.”

The team will be playing inside of the arena, but the tennis courts that are located right outside of the building will be utilized by the Freedoms as well.

“We like to do a lot of clinics and activities,” Perry said. “We’re playing in the summer. We like to have a little bit of an indoor-outdoor feel to what we’re doing.”

Also in attendance for the ceremony were Michael J. Hagan, for whom Hagan Arena is named, and St. Joe’s athletic director, Don DiJulia.

“I’ve known Don DiJulia for many years,” Perry said. “It was an easy phone call to make, just in terms of being able to get in touch with Don and to start the whole feasibility discussion that we needed to have. He was receptive and he’s been very helpful in working through the different things that we need to figure out, so it just came together.”

At the announcement ceremony, the St. Joe’s men’s and women’s tennis teams were able to personally meet King.

“Meeting a champion like Billie Jean King was a great honor and privilege,” said senior Alex Zachem of the women’s tennis team. “She took the time to speak to each of us individually, while also reminding us that the history behind the sport of tennis is what makes the future.”

Senior Kyle Chalmers was inspired by King’s story and impressed by how personable she was with the student-athletes.

“It was a truly incredible experience to meet Billie Jean King,” Chalmers said. “As one of the greatest women’s players of all time, it was truly humbling to have her introduce herself to each individual member of the men’s and women’s tennis teams. We can gain valuable insight into the fights that got us to the point where we are now, and where we can go if we do not regress as a society.”

Chalmers felt the most impactful moment was when King told the team of how she helped establish the WTA.

“She took a leap of faith to establish women’s tennis as an equally important professional sport as men’s tennis and has seen it succeed to the level it is at now,” Chalmers said.

Men’s tennis head coach, Ian Crockendon, believes that the St. Joe’s tennis teams will also benefit from the Freedoms electing to play their home games in Hagan Arena.

“It is great for Philadelphia to have the association of tennis with Saint Joseph’s by the Freedoms playing their home matches on our campus,” Crockendon said. “That identity will carry over to our teams and provide great publicity for us.”

The Freedoms will begin their 2017 season on July 16. More schedule information will be released in March and season tickets are currently on sale and are available by calling Asher Halbert at 215-952-5219.

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