Why Tennis in New Haven Won’t Last Much Longer

The first time I went to the Pilot Pen tennis tournament at Yale in New Haven was back six or seven years ago, maybe more with my dad. Two days later I went with my mom and brother. This was a time in my life when I was really into the sport and playing in high school. A year or two later the tournament brought men’s tennis back and it seemed to be at an all-time high for attendance and buzz in the state.

James Blake, Marcos Baghdatis and some of the other top players in the world loved coming to the New Haven tournament, the grounds were buzzing and I even remember hearing a guy at the ticket window one year walk up and say, “I want to see Blake.”

It’s not like that anymore.

Two or three years ago the event lost it’s title sponsor and it became known as the New Haven Open. The men’s tournament also left and so did some of the better women’s players. Caroline Wozniacki won the tournament four years in a row and was #1 in the world, but she didn’t really have any competition. She’s back this year along with Sabine Lisicki, Sara Errani, Petra Kvitova and other’s, but they still don’t have the top player in the world.

The Williams sister’s used to play in New Haven; over 10 years ago and they won’t ever be back. Federer, Nadal and Djokovic will never play in Connecticut, it just doesn’t have the pulling power.

When I walked to the ticket window today, I paid $34 for the cheapest ticket possible and didn’t even get to see anyone special. Yes, I saw Kvitova in the Stadium Court, but even the box seats aren’t right on the court. If you want sideline seats, you have to fork over $84 PER PERSON.

I understand tennis is a “rich person” sport, but it has casual fans that want to see their favorite players and they can barely do that here. A 20-something guy walked up to the ticket window next to me and asked how he could get a ticket just to walk on the grounds and see the matches on the side courts? $34 for a box seat. He couldn’t believe it, walked away and thought about if it was worth it before turning around and finally buying the ONLY ticket available.

In the past, the three or four side courts always had matches being played and you could pick wherever you wanted to go to watch a match. Today there were two courts, the stadium and grandstand courts. The grandstand showcased four doubles matches, none of which were very entertaining and the stadium, about 10% to capacity showed some early round singles competition.

It was hot.

A large bottle of water cost $5 and food is even more outrageous.

You can tell the tournament is trying to make it more fan-friendly. After a couples of matches, the winners were brought out to the green area to sign autographs and play ping-pong against the fans; which is cool, but it’s not going to last.

If the tournament doesn’t figure out a way to attract the top players in the world and more fans, they will not last. The sponsors will continue to leave the way Pilot Pen’s did. They need to bring in better tennis. They need to make it affordable for the casual fan, like myself. I don’t think this will happen. I know it was a Tuesday, but the attendance seems way down. I’ll see what it’s like this weekend, but I expect it to be some of the lowest ever.

Spring Sports Bombardment

The last couple of weeks at the Middletown Press, for me at least, have been pretty slow. Basketball season ended and we didn’t have all the scores coming in every night, well, that changed tonight.

I put all the spring sports schedules in my Google calender to begin the day and it showed me just how many games we had to cover every day. Then there was a little bit of downtime before the results started to come in. The one call I took was from the Mercy golf coach. The Tigers lost their first match of the season 224-228 to Cheshire.

A lot of the springs sports coaches email in their results which is nice, but when you start to see them all pile up, it’s a bit intimidating. I wrote up some tennis and golf today along with Joe doing the other stuff. The worst thing I may have heard was that today was a slow day, just wait until tomorrow.

I looked at the Shoreline Conference baseball schedule the other day and was hoping I would be able to go to the Haddam-Killingworth vs. Cromwell baseball game for a number of reasons. Cromwell is the reigning Class S state champion and H-K was the Class M runner-up last year. Cromwell has one of the best pitching staffs in the state and H-K has a couple good hurlers as well, not to mention Brian Moskey, my friend Kellie’s brother who I have heard can bring it, but haven’t seen him play yet.

Joe told me that Jimmy Zanor is covering the game, but I could go. Then he almost changed his mind and had me go to the Middletown vs. Vinal Tech baseball game, which I would have no problem covering, but the other game is way more appealing.

Cromwell and H-K softball teams are playing at the same time also at Cromwell High School, so Joe asked me to keep an eye on that game as well. That’s the trade-off I had to make in order to go to the baseball game. I’m sure I will also have a bunch of other games to write about when I get back to the office.

I’m excited for baseball season and hoping I am busy for the rest of the time I am at the Press.

Spring Season

So, what have I been doing lately? Well, I didn’t go into the office last week, because Joe has Thursday and Friday off after working 10 straight days due to the weekend of the basketball state championships at Mohegan Sun. He emailed me early last week and wanted me to come up with a feature idea, but I really had no idea. I’m not too good at pitching ideas right now, it’s something I hope to get better at. So instead Joe told me that we were starting the spring sports capsules and he would be sending out emails to all the athletics directors in the area and we would be putting those together, i.e. me.

The last week I have been getting the return emails from the coaches forwarded to me and I have been organizing the sports capsules as they come in. It may be tedious work, but it’s interesting and helps me learn about the teams in the area. We cover baseball, softball, tennis and lacrosse and whatever is going on. Spring is my favorite sports time of the year.

That’s really it. This week I am on spring break and I don’t go anywhere, EVER, so I emailed Joe last night and asked if I could come in maybe a different day if there was something going on and he told me to come in Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, so that’s what I’m doing. This week will hopefully be interesting and I’ll be back at it.