|Ticket to Hell!|
In the mid-1980's, I was able to purchase tickets for a (then) small men's event (a warm-up to the U.S. Open) on Long Island, NY, called 'The Hamlet Challenge' (now defunct) for $20, which was a low price, even then! For that price, I got to park for free, rode a free bus to the courts (which were situated in a private condo complex), and saw every one of that day's events (singles and doubles; and that was true for the semis and the finals, as well!).
One year, I got there at 10am, and didn't move from my chair until 7pm!!!
All the events took place on a single court!
Talk about the good ol' days!
There were about 24 players with the likes of Lendl, Connors, McEnroe, etc! Spectators got tons of freebies, including the program, snacks, photo ops, etc! Even the hot dogs were reasonably priced! I had to drive 20 miles to get to the business park adjacent to the condo complex where the bus picked us up, but I assure you that I certainly didn't mind! There were very few court-based ads (except in the program, of course!), no corporate sponsorship, virtually no one in the stands, and there was only one newspaper photographer (and she was freelance!). Cable-TV was relatively new, at the time, and hardly anyone had it, so there was no TV coverage. I certainly got my money's worth! If anyone left empty-handed or without a huge smile on their face, then they were not tennis fans to begin with! The whole thing had a wonderful, down-to-earth, grass roots feeling to it!
Then, in the early 1990's, the event was moved about 20 miles east to its sister condo community, which was just 2 miles away from my parents' home!!! Sounds like a great thing for me, right? For the price of at least $50 for that same event, I had to park wherever I can, because there's no parking facility. It usually meant having neighborhoods fill-up with cars; fortunately, the neighbors were warned about the event in advance, and most of them took the one week hassle in stride. Then I had to walk a half-mile to the event (i.e., no bus), I could see only ONE session (i.e., the day OR evening events, not both!), the 30+ players were rarely in the top ten (most top players chose to play in Connecticut); the stadium was packed with ads and filthy rich fans; there were photographers all over the place, including the cable TV cameras; and, although practically nothing is free anymore, the corporate sponsors deigned to give us poor slobs a QUARTER piece of a one-ounce granola bar sample (I kid you not! But, have you ever tried eating a sticky piece of granola bar on a hot August day?!). On the plus side, when the August temperatures exceeded 90 degrees, they did give out free cups of water! (that's ill-disguised sarcasm, in case you missed it!) As you might expect, that nice, homey feeling had been replaced with all the atmosphere of a New York subway. (hmmmm . . . maybe that's now the fans warm-up to the U.S. Open!) I am certainly not singling-out this particular event. My point is that the fans are getting WAY less bang for the buck. Is anyone surprised by this "revelation"? Ticket prices have risen despite corporate sponsors, who pay monstrous sums in order to raise the prize money to attract better players; so far, it hasn't worked! All it has done is alienate the fans, by making us feel like we're doling out mucho dineros to see second-rate players who are paid under the table and get lofty prize money on top of that, while we get nothing except a bad case of sunburn! (granted, "appearance guarantees" aren't considered "illegal" anymore, but, I have witnessed players tanking on more than one occasion, so what was the point of these so-called "guarantees"; doesn't that, alone, cheapen the whole event?) Worse, some players tank so badly, you'd think they were vying for an Oscar award! You'd think that the sponsors would want to get the fans' reactions, first-hand, although that doesn't always help: Look how many years it took before they stopped flying planes from the NY airports over the U.S. Open, or when they finally started producing some decent, though way over-priced food at the Open!
Sponsors should do everything in their power to make the fans feel at home, especially for non-major events, with simple things like plenty of free parking, easy-access to the stadium, comfortable seating, and freebies galore including food, drink, and souvenirs, just to mention a few! After all, it is the fans who buy the goods that the sponsors want to sell, right?
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