For tennis aficionados, the name "Indian Wells" resonates with prestige, excitement, and sunshine. Nestled in the picturesque Coachella Valley of Southern California, the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, which is a Masters 1000 ATP event and WTA 10000 event, stands as a beacon of excellence in the world of tennis, for fans and players alike.

How did this tournament ascend to such heights of prominence? Let's delve into the captivating history and remarkable growth of the BNP Paribas Open.

The Beginning

The story of Indian Wells as a tennis destination began in the late 1970s when Raymond Moore, a former tennis professional, and Charlie Pasarell, who was a founding member of the ATP, envisioned a tournament that would rival the prestigious events of the tennis world.

In 1976, they transformed their vision into reality by hosting the first edition of the tournament, then known as the American Airlines Tennis Games, at the Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage. Tennis greats such as Arthur Ashe, Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg participated in this inaugural event. Jimmy Connors won the event, and total prize money for the tournament was $200,000.

Charlie Pasarell

Lansing, D. (2018, March 3). BNP Paribas Open develops into powerhouse. Palm Springs Life.

The Rise to Prominence

The tournament, whose name continued to morph and popularity continued to rise, gained momentum and recognition. Here are a few -- though certainly not all -- key points of interest in the development of what we now know as 'Tennis Paradise.'


In 1981 the tennis event had grown so much that it needed to move to the La Quinta Hotel (now the La Quinta Resort), where it resided for the next five years and utilized the 7,500-seat tennis stadium onsite.


In 1987, the tournament was even larger, and it desperately needed a more permanent home. Pasarell and Moore developed a plan to construct a top tier facility at the Grand Champions Hotel in Indian Wells, (now the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa). They built 12 courts, including a 10,000-seat stadium. 

1987 also marked the first year that women were included in the tournament, albeit in a separate competition that was held in conjunction with the men’s. Pasarell is to thank for fighting to get the women in.


In 1995, a deal to move the tournament to Las Vegas fell through, and to Pasarell’s delight, he was able to purchase several surrounding properties to the existing Indian Wells site, which he loved. This purchase allowed him to expand the facilities even further. 

Indian Wells under construction

History. Indian Wells Tennis Garden. (2024, January 20).,tennis%20destination%20in%20the%20desert.



By 2000, the expansion of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden was complete. It boasted a 54-acre campus, with 29 hard courts, a 16,100 capacity outdoor stadium and beautiful facilities for members, players and spectators.

The tournament waded through some rocky financial years in the early 2000s but eventually turned things around, so well, in fact, that outside entities expressed interest in buying the event; specifically, Qatar. However Pasarell had poured so much love and effort into the Indian Wells location that he couldn’t bear to see it move from its home in the desert. 


Pasarell’s partner, Raymond Moore, had developed a friendship with Larry Ellison, the renowned entrepreneur and technology visionary who was also a tennis enthusiast. He pitched the idea to Ellison who made an offer and took ownership of the event and facility in 2009. Ellison's acquisition heralded a new era of innovation and ambition, infused with his trademark passion for excellence.

With Ellison at the helm, Indian Wells experienced a renaissance, marked by strategic investments in infrastructure, technology, and player amenities. His vision and leadership transformed the tournament into a global powerhouse, elevating its status to unprecedented heights within the tennis community. Ellison's unwavering commitment to enhancing the fan experience and advancing the sport's reach has left an indelible mark on Indian Wells, ensuring its place as a crown jewel of the tennis world for years to come.

BNP Paribas also became the title sponsor of the tournament in 2009.

Indian Wells Tennis Garden

History. Indian Wells Tennis Garden. (2024, January 20).,tennis%20destination%20in%20the%20desert.


The Tournament Today

The BNP Paribas Open tournament has catapulted to international acclaim. With its breathtaking desert backdrop, superb amenities, and immaculate playing conditions, Indian Wells became a favorite among players and fans alike. And a record-setting $19 million total prize money in 2024 puts a big exclamation point on the tournament, as well.

While the event has undergone multiple changes in ownership, titles, locations and sponsorship over the last four decades, its essence has remained unchanged, thanks to the leadership and vision of its founders. The BNP Paribas Open is truly a celebration of tennis excellence on the grandest stage. It is Tennis Paradise.

BNP Paribas Open 

Need ideas of what to wear to the BNP Paribas Open? Check out Edara's past guide here. And don't forget the importance of sun safety while out in the desert!

BNP Paribas History
Indian Wells Tennis Garden History
Palm Springs Life, "Order on the Court"