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Volume 21 No. 1
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Best U.S. Open tickets see hefty price hike

The U.S. Open Tennis Championships has substantially increased ticket prices as it seeks to capture some of the profit in the secondary ticket market.

The event, which begins today, raised prices on its most coveted seats by an average of 25 percent, as well as offering a number of new price points. This follows moves by the likes of the World Series-winning Chicago Cubs, which increased prices nearly 20 percent and defended the move by citing the strong demand in the secondary ticket market.

The USTA said prices for 1,500 courtside seats at the Open last year on the secondary market were more than 120 percent higher than face value.

That “told us that there was far more demand for our courtside seats and that maybe we had been pricing too low,” said Lew Sherr, the U.S. Tennis Association’s chief revenue officer. “There is massive demand for our most premium product, far in excess of what we realized in the past.”

The Open’s move came after the event studied its ticket strategy, which led to a major change in how they are sold. This year there are 23 price points, up from seven last year. Price points went from three to six in the coveted lower bowl, where a top seat now costs $20,000 for the fortnight and its 24 sessions, a $4,000 increase. The low end of prices for the lower bowl, Sherr said, is about $12,500 a seat for the next two weeks.

Seats in the lower bowl for the U.S Open now range from $12,500 to $20,000 for the two-week event, up an average 25 percent, after strong secondary market demand.
The USTA research found that ticket prices on the secondary market last year were on average 100 percent higher overall.

The Open lost only a handful of accounts (it sells most lower bowl seats like a season ticket rather than as individual sessions) and easily refilled them. The event is a hot ticket in late-summer New York, and regularly sells at 98 percent to 100 percent of capacity. Over the two weeks that means more than 700,000 attendees.

The Open’s ticketing provider for both secondary and primary is Ticketmaster, and the event has no plans to change that affiliation. The data for secondary tickets came from a wide range of secondary venues, not just Ticketmaster’s Ticket Exchange.

Kirsten Corio, a former NBA executive and now a USTA official, led the overview of ticketing, and noted demand is so high that the event could have quadrupled prices and lost very few accounts.

That said, the event actually lowered prices on 54 percent of seats, most of them in the cavernous upper bowl of the main stadium, named after Arthur Ashe. The USTA decided its mission to promote the growth of tennis necessitated ensuring many tickets remained affordable, Sherr said.

Despite that move, the higher premium prices more than offset the other declines, and allow the USTA to top the 4 percent to 5 percent increase in ticket revenue it normally accrues each year.

Ticketing represents about one-third of the $300 million in revenue that the U.S. Open is expected to bring in this year.

Open tickets are not quite like those to other sporting events. The ticket provides a seat in Ashe but also allows access to many other courts. Those are largely seated on a first-come, first-serve basis, though seats are also sold in some of these other venues.

So, a ticket for the upper reaches of Ashe for most of the tournament gives access to other matches that allow far closer access.