U.S. Open Returns With Fewer Star Players, More Premium Seating

For the first time since 1997, a tennis major championship will not have Serena and Venus Williams, Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal in the main singles draw. Yet the possibility of Novak Djokovic winning the Grand Slam, plus upgraded high-end hospitality packages, have U.S. Open officials optimistic about attendance at 141st edition of the tournament.

The Open is known for its premium entertainment offerings, with top-tier tickets and private suites a major draw for upscale fans during the two-week tournament at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens. After a year without any fans because of COVID, this year’s premium ticket sales are doing well, according to Kirsten Corio, the U.S. Open’s head of ticketing.

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“Normally we go on sale in late May this year, we went on sale in July after Wimbledon,” Corio said in a phone interview. “And we had a really, really strong start very strong demand in July, outperforming really all of our expectations in that time. We’re only about 10% off of where we were at this point in time in 2019, which was a record-shattering year for us on all business metrics that we track.”

Corio said in an average year, the tournament would sell a total 680,000 tickets. Two years ago, nearly 738,000 fans, a record, attended matches in Queens.

The tournament, in a new sales and service partnership with Elevate Sports Ventures, offers a variety of premium packages, and the grounds are dotted with private dining and entertainment facilities. Tickets to the Overlook, the Open’s largest hospitality club, include premium seats and unlimited access to the lounge and its sprawling views of the stadiums. A 1968 Room ticket package includes even better seats, with access to an exclusive dining space inside the Overlook.

The Overlook ticket packages start at $550 and go up to $2,700 per session, while the 1968 Room ticket packages (courtside ticket level) begin at $1,250 and run as high as $6,500 per session. For those who prefer a private suite to entertain guests, Arthur Ashe Stadium has luxury suites on the loge level with air-conditioned indoor lounges, food and beverage options and a full-service attendant. Those will set patrons back from $15,000 to over $100,000, depending on the session.

The hospitality team curated a new premium package this year with concierge service close to the action. These new seats, named Courtside Premier, form a new row (AA) on the east side of Arthur Ashe Stadium, carved out by shrinking the photographer pit from two rows down to one.

These new seats come with a private concierge who will take care of the ticket holders “from the time they enter their parking lot or get off the train and takes care of everything they need for that day,” Corio said, including food and beverage service to the seat. “It’s tough to do that in tennis,” Corio added. “You can’t predict when the changeovers are going to happen, and service can’t be provided mid-play.” These tickets run from $1,850 to $10,000 per session, and also provide access to the 1968 room, the player cafe in Arthur Ashe Stadium during the final weekend, and an appearance by a legend or a past champion.

Still, a few crowd favorites have been scuttled due to COVID-related protocols. Qualifying matches the week before the main draw have traditionally been free, but this year took place without crowds. Another big fan favorite, Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day, was also canceled. “It’s a sad thing that we couldn’t deliver that for fans this year,” Corio said. “But we did make an effort to ensure that our lowest ticket prices were held the same as they were in 2019.”

General attendance tickets have been sold for $30 in Louis Armstrong Stadium and $35 for Arthur Ashe.

After last year’s fan-free event, the U.S. Open will be the first Grand Slam tournament to allow full attendance since the Australian Open in February of 2020. This year’s two-week-long tennis extravaganza is expected to be one of the most heavily attended mass gatherings in New York.

It is not clear how vaccine regulations will impact turnout. Less than 72 hours before the tournament started, tournament officials decided to require proof of Covid-19 vaccination from all fans 12 and older in order to enter the grounds, after going without requirements in the run up to the event. Long lines and wait times were reported at the gates as crowds pressed together while waiting to get in. The Open said masks will not be required in the stadiums and concourses for the tournament.

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