This exclusive insight into the US Open’s Fan Week is part of “Fan XP” – a newsletter designed to keep you abreast of the latest innovations, strategies and more regarding fan experience across the globe. To sign up, please click here.
While the 2019 US Open gets underway in earnest next week, the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York, is already a hive of activity as organisers seek to build on what is claimed to be one of the best fan experiences in sport.
The US Open’s Fan Week commenced on Monday, exactly a week before the start of the tournament, with an expanded array of tennis and entertainment activities to stoke anticipation.
Competition with the US Open’s fellow grand slams, the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon, is one thing, but ensuring the tournament’s fan experience also stacks up against other sports and entertainment events in New York and further afield is a recurring challenge that the United States Tennis Association (USTA) has to meet, according to senior director of corporate communications Brendan McIntyre.
He told Fan XP: “This is always incredibly important for the US Open. The fan experience is of the utmost importance – making sure that everyone who walks through the gates of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center enjoys themselves, and wants to come back.
“Each year we challenge ourselves to improve what many consider one of the best fan experiences in sports. The global sports marketplace is hyper-competitive, and if you don’t push forward, you will slip behind.”
Running through to Sunday, Fan Week is anchored by the US Open Qualifying Tournament, with all activities scheduled being free and open to the public. The new Fan Week Center Stage, located in the South Plaza, will serve as home for many activities for tennis fans and non-fans alike.
Top ATP men’s and WTA women’s players are also being showcased in featured practice sessions in the Grandstand court, with the stars hanging around afterwards to sign autographs, while a series of ‘Legends’ matches have also been scheduled.
The Center Stage includes player interview and autograph opportunities, as well as ticket and merchandise giveaways. It will also be the site of free pop-up entertainment and special guest appearances.
For the first time during Fan Week, fans are able to register to gain access to Arthur Ashe Stadium, which is typically closed to the public prior to the main draw of the US Open. The stadium is featuring top player practices and other activities.
Meanwhile fans are also being offered the total ‘US Open Experience’, which includes a vast range of food, merchandise and shopping opportunities, plus various activations by US Open sponsors in booths located across the site.
For the younger generation, Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day returns for its 24th edition, featuring a concert and television programme taking place inside Arthur Ashe Stadium. While access to the grounds and all grounds activities are free, for the first time, courtesy of the USTA Foundation, general admission promenade seats in Ashe Stadium for the concert are free.
Meanwhile, the Net Generation Kids’ Zone presented by Emirates offers activities, such as tennis target practice, soccer dribbling, a basketball shootout, golf putting challenge, an agility course and a hockey shooting accuracy area. The Kids’ Zone is designed to introduce fans to the USTA’s American Development Model – a multi-sport approach.
In partnership with Honest Juice, the Holiday Inn brand will also provide free meal vouchers to children 12 and under, while the most popular elements of Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day will be replicated across Fan Week grounds, including face painting, roving performers and pop-up performances.
For the adults, the Heineken Happy Hour, featuring DJs and drinks, will extend into the evenings, while US Open sponsor Chase is hosting live music at the Fan Week Center Stage.
Another new addition to Fan Week will be Open Pride, with members of the LGBTQ+ community invited to experience all that the US Open has to offer at an event featuring tennis legend Billie Jean King, as well as a number of other former sports stars.
Free and open
Commenting on the line-up, McIntyre said: “We know that the US Open is our greatest opportunity to showcase the sport of tennis in the United States.
“By enhancing and growing Fan Week, we are able to bring even more fans into the fold. We have made the entire week free and open to the public – which gives individuals that may not otherwise be able to, the opportunity to experience the excitement and action of the US Open.”
McIntyre added: “This is not only a view we share, but one that we have been a leader in, in tennis and across all of sports, for 20-plus years.
“The US Open is the sport’s leading innovator, both on and off the court. This is why we continue to look at ways to improve, year after year, and why leading up to last year we spent five years completely transforming the Tennis Center – to give those on site the optimal experience.”
As the superstars of tennis prepare to do battle in the final slam of the year, it is clear that the US Open is not prepared to rest on its laurels when it comes to the fan experience. And with Fan Week, spectators will be primed for when the action gets underway.
McIntyre added: “We have continuously upgraded, improved and expanded our food and beverage offerings, giving visitors the opportunity to try numerous options. We were the first grand slam to utilise blue courts and electronic line calling, enhancing the playing experience for those on the court, and the viewing experience for those off it.
“Entertainment has been a pillar for us, between Opening Night, Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day, and the men’s and women’s finals, giving us the opportunity to bring an added level of excitement to those in the stands and our viewers throughout the world.”