One year removed from the conclusion of a five-year, $600-million renovation to the U.S.T.A. Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, fans from all facets of the globe will be attending the 2019 US Open, beginning on August 26.
To jumpstart this moment, Nicole Kankam, managing director of the USTA, began by making sure the tournament is more accessible and affordable for spectators than ever before.
“Every year I think we look to take the US Open experience to the next level,” said Kankam “It’s really how do we deliver the best-in-class experience, continue to bring new fans into the fold each and every year and expand the audience across the board.”
To kickoff US Open Fan Week, fans were able to attend US Open qualifiers free of charge. Once they arrive at the USTA’s Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Kankam aims to grab everyone’s attention – from kids to adults.
In line with US Open qualifiers, the USTA partnered with Emirates on its Net Generation Kids’ Zone. According to Kankam, the goal of this is not only attract people to the tennis community but to sports as a whole. Outside of promoting tennis, the event features a hockey shoot-out, as well as basketball and soccer activities for visitors to participate in.
Once the afternoon matches lead into the night sessions, the USTA and Chase will display its “Chase Soundcheck” concert series throughout the tournament. Starting on Tuesday, August 20, fans have already seen shows from artists HAIM and Lany, respectively. Country singer Brett Eldredge and Grammy-award winner Leon Bridges will round out qualifiers with performances on August 22 and 23, respectively.
“What can we do [during US Open qualifiers] that can attract even people?” asked Chris Widmaier, managing director of corporate communications at the USTA. “The whole point here is to take what you had, build on it in a smart way to attract more people here, and expose more people to the US Open experience – to grow the sport of tennis.”
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According to Widmaier, the US Open has small margins for improvement. During the 2018 edition, at least 96,000 fans attended US Open Fan Week and roughly 730,000 came during the main-draw event. With hopes of drawing over 850,000 visitors in 2019, Widmaier knows that to reach that goal, the USTA has to be innovative when working with attendees. Thus far, with between 90 and 95% of tickets already sold this year, it appears to be paying off.
“You have to look in creative ways,” said Widmaier. “So that’s Fan Week and we can grow this week, get more people on the ground to really start seeing what the US Open experience is like. Converting them into life-long fans is our hope in that they’ll become future fans of the US Open and the sport of tennis.”
“We can grow this week, get more people on the ground to really start seeing what the US Open experience is like,” said Widmaier. “Converting them into life-long fans is our hope in that they’ll become future fans of the US Open and the sport of tennis.”