SBJ/20100830/SBJ In-Depth

Several upgrades in store for U.S. Open guests

The U.S. Open tennis tournament has completed several upgrades for this year’s event tied to food concessions and new technology to improve the fan experience over the two-week competition.

Panasonic, a new Open sponsor, is activating its three-year, seven-figure deal with a 3-D viewing lounge inside a 1,400-square-foot, air-conditioned space at Louis Armstrong Stadium. The deal is tied to CBS Sports and DirecTV 3-D broadcasts on Labor Day weekend and Finals weekend.

The electronics manufacturer will have its latest 3-D televisions on display in that storefront and at the Smash Zone, the U.S. Tennis Association’s version of the NFL Experience, said Danny Zausner, the USTA’s managing director.

A new version of the Octagon retail operation will
boost points of sale by 25 percent.

The Smash Zone and its three tennis courts tied to kids activities are part of the new indoor training center entering its second year of operation. This is the first year the Open has access to all 250,000 square feet of space since the training center opened as an unfinished building in 2009, Zausner said.

Levy Restaurants’ hospitality program will be in “full bloom” at the training center, operating a new 5,000-square-foot, outdoor terrace-style restaurant called Overlook on the roof of the building, Zausner said.

The USTA did a branding deal with Cosmopolitan Las Vegas, a new high-end hotel opening in December in Sin City, and the dining outlet will be themed after the poolside cabanas linked to the brand and its high-end experience, Zausner said. Levy’s menu will reflect the hotel offerings, too.

Mercedes-Benz, another new sponsor in a three-year deal with the USTA, will have its luxury vehicles on display on plazas inside the East and South gates, and will have prominent signage in all three stadiums and on the field courts. Mercedes also sponsors the men’s singles competition, Zausner said.

Losing its bounce?
The Turnkey Sports Poll asked sports business executives in July: What is your perception of the state of tennis in the U.S?
Diminishing in popularity
53%
Holding its ground
38%
Growing in popularity
6%
No response / Not sure
3%
Source: Turnkey Sports & Entertainment in conjunction with SportsBusiness Journal. Turnkey Intelligence specializes in research, measurement and lead generation for brands and properties. Visit www.turnkeyse.com.

Food has always been an important part of the Open and this year Levy will roll out a bevy of new offerings and destinations. The South Plaza Master Chef Cafe is one addition. Susan Feniger, Carmen Gonzalez, Tony Mantuano, Rick Moonen and Jonathan Waxman, five chefs showcased on television food shows, will create dishes exclusively for the event and will participate Sept. 5 in a charitable competition.

New food stands include the all-organic Stonyfield Farm and Niman Ranch, a premium sausage brand tied to a network of more than 650 independent farmers. The purveyor’s meats are 100 percent gluten-free, providing an option for tennis fans who have restricted diets.

The USTA’s merchandise operation has also been upgraded with brands such as Wilson Sporting Goods increasing its presence in the main retail shop, Zausner said. The Octagon, responsible for 50 percent of retail revenue, was demolished and rebuilt with points of sale expanding by 25 percent.

Facility Merchandising Inc. operates retail on behalf of the USTA, and the concessions firm coordinates all third-party vendor agreements with brands such as Nike, Lacoste and Polo, Zausner said.

Food and merchandise will get a higher profile inside the East Gate after officials replaced the last building with ties to the original complex that opened in the 1970s, he said. American Express, another Open partner, will have a new booth in an area where U.S. Open collectibles will be sold.

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