Like the PSP the Millennium is still looking for its own version of Huntington Beach, an iconic season opening event. This year that search brought us to the south of France, to the world famous (and culturally iconic) French Riviera--an extended stretch of coastal communities, sandy beaches, azure sea--celebrities like Prince Ranier and Gina Lollobrigida--that was once the unrivaled playground of the rich and famous. Naming your event the St. Tropez-Cannes Open purposefully evokes that riviera of wealth and privilege. The Provence region of France is also home to tens of thousands of ordinary folks living in proximity to a tourist and resort mecca whose past glories are fading. And then there was the venue.
Between St. Tropez and Cannes is St. Raphael. A few kilometers inland up the DN7 near the town of Puget Sur Argens is the Oasis Village resort. It is part RV park and part trailer park, part permanent residences and part seasonal residences. It turns out that ‘bungalow’ in French means wheeled abode built at four-fifths human scale. What it failed to convey was that the walls are paper thin and the unit water heater was the size of a large coffee can or that the mattresses are approximately 4 inches thick when vigorously fluffed. (Feel free to make your own joke there.) Or that a level floor may be a goal but was not a necessity. On the plus side everything was clean and fresh towels materialized daily. The setting was rustic.
The venue was on a patch of scraped ground at one end of the Oasis Village property and accessible by road or winding paths through the Village. There were four fields; 2 sets of 2 fields side by side. Closest to Oasis Village were the CPL & SPL fields. Closer to the road were the divisional fields and in-between was the vendors set-up, a small food court and the paint trailers. The ground is a dusty brownish-red, as finely ground as an artist's natural pigment. The vegetation is numerous shades of green trending toward the dark and mysterious greens of the dense pine canopies that look like prickly mushroom caps. The landscape could as easily be somewhere in California or even New Mexico. Visible from the VIP are the distant exposed ochre and brick rock formations of the foothills of the Alpes-Maritimes. There's no hint of the not-too-distant sea in the strong breezes that sweep across the venue.
The apparatus of the field set-ups reflect lessons learned in places like Charleroi and Malaga where high winds and pelting thunderstorms (rising seas) tore fields apart and mangled steel supports. The current system is highly portable, compact and most importantly, allows for the netting to be lowered or raised within minutes. The resulting set-up is perhaps a compromise of sorts compared with the current PSP constructions which could almost be permanent installations. Even so it seems a worthwhile compromise as it delivers savings in transport, storage costs, time & labor along with the capacity to survive bouts of severe weather. (In light of the recent damage wrought in Galveston it's a system the PSP might do well emulating in the future.)
The pits too are a model of efficiency and utility. Placed similarly to those of the PSP the Millennium offers two PSP-sized pits at each end with each pair of pits separated by a chrono station. Each pair of pits is also serviced by an air station. Given that two matches are running alternately (but at the same time) the design and size contribute significantly to the league's ability to run simultaneous matches on time and without incident as a general rule. (Likewise tiny, poorly thought out pits at HB produced a very chaotic environment by comparison and compelled less efficient--although still functional clock management--at least on the grandstand field.)
Over the last couple of years the layouts designed for Millennium use have targeted fast paced aggressive play as their ideal--and since the Eurokids generally wish to emulate all things American--don't even bother denying it--it has served the MS well. It helps keep matches moving. It provides extra windows of time in the schedule and helps keep the Millennium wheels greased. The logistics of the multi-game also contribute to minimizing the size and expenses related to providing the tournament venue and at this point in time the league and its reps have the process down to a virtual science. While I appreciate the efficiency of it all I still don't care for broken up matches in terms of the lost energy and suspense of continuous match play.