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SBD/September 5, 2012/Events and AttractionsPrint All
With U.S. Open organizers planning "to add as many as 10,000 seats in coming years," some fans and officials are left "examining the relationship between the quantity of spectators and the quality of their experience," according to Pilon & Belson of the N.Y. TIMES. Attendance on Friday "was a tournament-best 62,362, with a record 37,688 people attending the day session and 24,674 for the night session." The crowds this year are "on track to outpace last year’s daily average of 27,768 fans." This year’s record attendance has been "fueled by increased bleacher seating on the outer courts." USTA officials are "happy to announce record attendance figures, but they are aware that the tennis center in its current form is too confined for the tens of thousands of fans who attend each session during the two-week tournament." USTA Exec Dir & COO Gordon Smith said, “There are times during the day when it can be uncomfortably crowded, and we’ll change that because we want our fans to have a great experience.” The USTA "has approval from the city to allow thousands more fans on the site now." But Smith said, “We self-limit ourselves because we know it’s not comfortable if we were to do that.” Renovations will "allow an additional 10,000 fans to attend day sessions during the first week of the tournament and relieve the crowding around the East Entrance and the main thoroughfare to Arthur Ashe Stadium." The plans include "knocking down the 6,000-seat grandstand court near the busy East Entrance and building a new 8,000-seat grandstand court with a food court in the little-used southwest corner of the property." If all goes well, the USTA "will not get final approval to start construction" until the fourth quarter of '13 (N.Y. TIMES, 9/4).
ATMOSPHERIC PRESSURE: SI.com's Bruce Jenkins wrote, "Whenever a riveting night match goes down at the Open, Arthur Ashe Stadium is a pretty cool place to be." It is an "awesome spectacle when the place is packed, with all the high-powered energy you'd expect from a New York setting." But the scene is "entirely different on weekdays." Jenkins: "How many big matches have been played this year in a half-filled (or worse) stadium?" It is a "total embarrassment, and it happens routinely, especially for matches involving the women's elite." Meanwhile, Jenkins writes, "For all the fears about Wimbledon's Centre Court roof and its assault on tradition, the indoor atmosphere has proved to be excellent. I can't even imagine a roof on the mini-planet that is Ashe Stadium. It would be like watching baseball in the old Houston Astrodome -- entirely too weird unless you're right up close to the action. Barring a decision to downsize Ashe and then consider a roof, this project is doomed" (SI.com, 9/2).
COMPARE & CONTRAST: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Carl Bialik reviews the U.S. Open under the header, "How The Open Compares To The World." The French Open "has outgrown its home, and the congestion overrides all other aspects of the fan experience." Wimbledon "was the most enjoyable, but more expensive, and tickets are scarce." U.S. Open tickets, however, are "available to the masses." Unlike the French Open, the U.S. Open has "floodlights on several of the general-admission courts," so tickets "can be good for 11 or 12 hours of tennis, albeit with a few very long waits on bathroom lines" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/5).
Baltimore Grand Prix organizers “came away convinced that this year's hastily planned event proved an IndyCar race can work downtown,” according to Scharper & Korman of the Baltimore SUN. Race On LLC head J.P. Grant, whose group organized the race, said, “This is a 90-day miracle. Our goal was to put on a race we could handle ourselves." IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard “praised Grant's work.” Bernard said that he was “pleased with the crowd and quality of the race.” Bernard “would not guarantee a return, though, as he is still finalizing next year's schedule; that includes negotiating how much Grant's company, Race On, will have to pay.” Scharper & Korman noted Race On “refused to discuss ticket sales, as did Andretti Sports Marketing, which handled promotion." Areas “choked with fans last year were more open, though, and grandstands were slow to fill” (Baltimore SUN, 9/3). Baltimore Grand Prix GM Tim Mayer said that he is “pleased with the results.” Mayer: “All the vendors and all the taxes are paid. We had a good walk-up despite the weather forecast. I'm happy. ... There was tremendous pressure to make it work, and we did. Now, we can make it work very well next year.” Mayer, when asked whether the race will return to Baltimore, said, “We're set up for the future. We have a five-year contract. Why would we work this hard for one year?” (Baltimore SUN, 9/3).
ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVES: In Baltimore, Kevin Cowherd wrote, “For an event that came together only three months ago after one deadbeat outfit stiffed the city of $1.5 million in taxes and fees and another folded its tent altogether, it wasn't a bad weekend at all.” Grant said, “The business community knows this is a race they can support." Cowherd noted because attendance figures were not released, no one is “exactly sure how many showed up to watch three days of high-performance race cars.” Cowherd: “From my viewpoint, the crowds lining Pratt Street and baking in the stands along the course didn't seem as big as the ones at the 2011 inaugural event. But race officials seemed to think last year's figures were padded anyway. So maybe that's another controversy brewing.” Andretti Autosport Corporate Communications Dir Jade Gurss said, “We’re pleased with the attendance. … Our dilemma is, we may have fewer total numbers, but we more likely have a higher number of paying customers.” Cowherd wrote, “All in all, this year's event ran far more smoothly than last year's, which is astounding when you consider organizers had only 100 days to put it together” (Baltimore SUN, 9/3).
RETURN ENGAGEMENT? Bernard said that the IndyCar BOD will “meet Sept. 20 to finalize the 2013 schedule.” Bernard said that this gives Race On ample time to “sort through the after-race information and added that he does not want to be making multiple announcements about the schedule.” Bernard: “I want one announcement for the schedule. As for Baltimore, I had a very good conversation with J.P. Grant. He's been a huge supporter of this race and wants it to work for the city. He definitely would like to see it back on the series schedule." He said that he “expects to have a 19-race schedule next season” (BALTIMORESUN.com, 9/2).