Tennis participation has skyrocketed in the United States since 2020, and as a result, the U.S. Open has shifted its strategy, meeting the increased demand to watch the game in person with additional premium ticket inventory and a year-round sales team.
Following last year’s tournament, which successfully brought back spectators after 2020 was held without fans due to COVID-19, the 142nd edition of the U.S. Open has seen another historic run in ticket sales. According to organizers, this year’s premium hospitality sales have showed significant growth compared to the 2021 tournament and nearly doubled hospitality revenue from the 2019 tournament. The luxury suites for the event have been sold out since June, three months before the start of the tournament and before Serena Williams announced this would be her final U.S. Open.
“The Serena effect is real, because the demand has been through the roof,” Kirsten Corio, the chief commercial officer of USTA, said in a phone interview. “I wish we had inventory to sell at that point, but we sold the inventory beforehand. … This is the only Grand Slam in the U.S. We’re in the financial capital of the world. I think we could add 100% more inventory for certain sessions and still sell it.”
This year, from the premium ticket sales perspective, the most popular sessions are women’s and men’s semifinals and the men’s final. Aside from those sessions, suites for Wednesday and Thursday night sessions during the first week have seen an influx of interest. The price tag on these individual suites exceeds $100,000 for some sessions.
In 2021, USTA and Elevate Sports Ventures partnered to improve the offering of the U.S. Open’s premium sales products, experiences and sales strategy. “There are three primary reasons that we know are tangibly impacting the outcome,” Corio said. “We added more inventory to the premium suites and the hospitality program, and we have more sales support and more products that have met the market demand that has contributed to the success in 2021 and now heading into 2022.”
As part of these upgrades, the USTA took a page out of the NBA’s playbook and added courtside seats to the premium hospitality offerings. These 24 seats on the east side of Arthur Ashe Stadium—created by shrinking the photographer pit from two rows down to one—come with a concierge who takes care of the ticket-holders from the moment they enter the premises until they leave. These seats cost $1,850 to $13,000 per session, depending on the session.
“We thought about what would be on a bucket list, what would be the thing that someone would love to do with U.S. Open that they never thought possible,” Corio said. “They have food and beverage service, which is really difficult to do in tennis, and an opportunity to meet tennis legends like John McEnroe or Andy Roddick.”
Along with the suites and courtside seats, the tournament offers a variety of premium packages that include exclusive dining and entertainment facilities. Tickets to the Overlook, the Open’s largest hospitality club, start at $550 and go up to $3,000 per session, while the 1968 Room ticket packages begin at $1,250 and run as high as $6,500 per session. Luxury suites with air-conditioned indoor lounges come with food and beverage options and a full-service attendant.
In terms of regular attendance, Corio said they expect the number of fans to surpass the pre-pandemic levels. Three years ago, 750,000 fans attended matches over two weeks in Queens. “We’ve welcomed fans back in this qualifying tournament and the Arthur Ashe Kids Day, which will add up to another 100,000 people to the ground.”
General attendance tickets have been sold for $30 in Louis Armstrong Stadium and $35 in Arthur Ashe stadium weeks in advance.
“Tennis is having a moment since the pandemic,” Corio said. “We’ve seen extraordinary growth and participation over the past two years.”