August 28, 1999
NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT
RON SHAW: I would like to say from the sponsor's standpoint that I do not have remember -- I realize you people have to write freedom of the press; you can write anywhere you want; nothing should ever be slanted - your writing this week has been so positive and so upbeat, hopefully, of course, that is your honest reflection of what has been going on out here. But just people who -- I think the Mayor said it today in his comments on the court: That over the last couple of years he didn't kind of feel the enthusiasm any more, but it was alive here this year and the stories that were carried by the press this week certainly reflected that. And so from our standpoint as the title sponsor, I just wanted to say a big and very honest thank you. It was just such a joy to see the way you guys covered it all. Guys and gals, I am sorry.
Q. You folks able to put together the finals numbers on attendance?
BUTCH BUCHHOLZ: Close.
ANNE WORCESTER: We are within 50 or so, but our overall number is nearly 72,000, which means that we have increased our attendance 75% over 1998. We also have some other statistics about WTA Tour attendance at other tournaments on the Tour. I guess this year we are the second of all the Tier IIs around the world that have been played so far, second to the tournament in San Diego with 82,000. And ninth overall of all the tournaments that have been played including the Tier I's, II's, III's and IV's. So that ain't bad for a tournament which is in year two in a new market. So we are very pleased about that.
Q. In laymen's terms 2's meaning non-Grand Slam?
ANNE WORCESTER: You know there is a tournament in Hilton Head, a little tournament down in Miami called the Ericsson Open - used to be called the Lipton Championships, some of you may have heard of it, the Newsweek Cup, the Evert Cup out in Indian Wells, those are the Tier I's that are meant to get the best player fields that have the largest draws, biggest crowds, so we -- well, there is nine Tier I's around the world in women's tennis and our attendance is greater than the Tier I's in Berlin and in Tokyo and then the only other Tier II that has greater attendance than New Haven is the San Diego tournament.
Q. How does this rank with tournaments' size of purse?
ANNE WORCESTER: They are all the same. The Tier I's are a million and the Tier IIs are 500,000. Tier IIIs are about 175 and the Tier IVs, last I checked, were about 110.
Q. Winner was 90,000 and loser was --
RON SHAW: It is 90 and 40 is what I was told despite the fact that the check said 80, so -- not the real check.
ANNE WORCESTER: The Fleet Bank check. The big enlarged check.
Q. How enthused are you guys? Obviously way ahead of what you expected, 75% increase, how happy are you?
BUTCH BUCHHOLZ: I think you can just walk through the site and you can feel energy of enthusiasm and we are not really 100% sure why, but maybe it is the last couple of years, you know, in terms of there is some seed effort there. I think the fact that we are going to be here for the next five years. I think we are coming off of -- the pendulum hit the bottom, this time last year with the men's event going, it was just sort of an air of uncertainty. I think the fact that Ron and Pilot Pen have stepped up, stabilized us, the city helped Yale stepped up some more. There is reason for optimism. The five-year deal with the USTA, don't want to embarrass her, but I think Anne being here on a year-round basis has made a very big difference.
RON SHAW: Absolutely.
BUTCH BUCHHOLZ: Maybe the message is out there that this is not as shaky an event as everybody perceived it to be.
Q. I am sure through the course of the week -- you know, probably been walking around taking mental notes, this year we are going to do this differently; that differently. Could you share with us anything?
BUTCH BUCHHOLZ: When we left here last year, we weren't ready to give it up, but I am telling you what, we are in a survival mode. That is where we were.
ANNE WORCESTER: We tried to make our budget cuts invisible to the fans and we -- Ron and I had a conversation last week. We were talking about eliminating some of the frills that weren't directly related to the marketing and the promotion. I think we will probably take a good look at the surface, see if we need to make any investment in the surface, make sure the players are happy. Lindsay and some of the other players are going to get in touch with us after the US Open, give us their feedback after they play on those courts. And I think we will probably have to add lights to the grandstand because we want to give fans more options and we have begun discussions with Yale about making the investment together. Other than that, it is just little things. Definitely I have a pretty good tickler file in there, but minor adjustments. Were we are very, very lucky we have a great team. Our staff is all doing three peoples' jobs. They are here from 8 in the morning until 8 at night for the past three months. They all have taken great pride in presenting this event in a bigger and better way this year. They don't get much credit but they are the people that are behind the scenes that really bring it all together. We couldn't be sitting up here without their hard work.
Q. How many full-time paid staff?
ANNE WORCESTER: Not enough. There is four or five year-round full-time and now that our marketing and sales efforts have begun to pay off, we are looking to spend a little more to grow a bit more.
Q. I talked to some of the vendors. There are some reduced food in the food court, stuck us out in the grandstand, but is there anything else you guys did to kind of streamline or reduce, but still keep it entertaining?
ANNE WORCESTER: We had three food court vendors compared to four and we are continuing to bring in a very high quality, the Crepes Express was tremendously well received by the fans. The hot dogs and hamburgers, the food -- quality of the food court is very high. We enlarged the Michelob Light court side cafe. We had different food carts around the site so we don't think that -- we think that the supply was consistent with the demand and we added a lot of fan-friendly things this year, like Toys R Us Town. We wanted this tournament to be more than just tennis matches. So everything from face painting, to Kid's Day, to sponsor give-a-ways, to Michelob Light Night with live music. There were thousands of people here at five o'clock yesterday for a 7 o'clock match having a great time, eating drinking socializing. People were coming up to me every other minute just saying what a great time they were having. We had to hold the match because the fans were having too much fun on the upper site; we needed to get them down in their seats. That is the ambience that we wanted to create because you can't ever just depend on the players showing up and getting through to the semis. So our goal is to make this as much of an entertainment vehicle for the entire family as we possibly can.
Q. Symbolic actually took the tarp off (inaudible) --
BUTCH BUCHHOLZ: It was really -- it was just sort of final sort of seal that the pendulum has dropped and it is on its way up. I think we met this morning and we are already getting into the marketing strategies and plans of what we are going to do for next year. Again just internally we are all very excited about the possibilities of next year. That is so different from where we were a year ago this time. So I mean, a lot of things - we are going to start things a lot earlier. I think the most significant thing is that there is stability here now. We really feel it. We feel it internally. I think Ron feels it and I think the fans feel it. So our job next year is to really knock on doors throughout the state, the corporate community, tennis fans, I believe Connecticut has something here to be very proud of. We got a world-class facility. We have had world-class field, some of the strongest fields in women's tennis. And we have got a sponsor who really cares about this event. And I think the tennis fans are here. I believed that three years ago. We just got to keep giving them a product that they can count on.
Q. What was last year's attendance, 72,000 approximately this year?
BUTCH BUCHHOLZ: It is hard because you got -- the men and the women were packaged together. What we did last year for the box holders who bought the men's event, they were able to go to the women's event at the same price.
ANNE WORCESTER: Attendance record was like 41,000 or something.
Q. Today's attendance?
ANNE WORCESTER: Approximately 7,500, but that is not exact yet.
JERRY MILANI: We will have an exact number later.
Q. Quite a few sections in the box seats that were still empty?
BUTCH BUCHHOLZ: You have 6,000 seats down there. Those are 6,000 box seats. Those are more box seats than Lipton. There is more box seats, you know, lowering of Wimbledon and the French Open. So that is a heavy assignment to sell all those box seats. I am not 100% there yet, but I am getting there, is that maybe we should relook at restructuring that whole bottom section because if it were filled obviously that would look great for television. It would give -- create a better atmosphere for the players and the place wouldn't look like it is empty. We are toying with it. Maybe there will be certain sections that -- I don't have -- I haven't talked about it that much. I know where Mike is. Mike is leaning that way. I have sat here for three years now and told everybody I don't think that is the right thing to do. But maybe I am not that bull-headed that they can convince me.
ANNE WORCESTER: Ask me about it when Butch isn't in the room. We have changed our policy.
Q. Restructuring it to what?
BUTCH BUCHHOLZ: To sell seats on --
ANNE WORCESTER: Individual session basis. Problem with selling box seats on an individual session basis is that it dilutes the sale of box seats for the entire week because there will obviously be people who won't buy for the whole week so we have tried not to do it, but with the box ring that is larger than most women's tennis stadia to begin with, you need to be creative and do something different. So basically what we have told our box holders so that they can make informed decisions about renewing for 2000 is if and only if there is still box seats available early next summer, we will put on sale to the general public box seats on an individual session basis in restricted areas, I think it's the corners and rows 17 to 26 and those boxes will not be -- those box holders will not have the benefit of the special box holder amenities like the private box holders club and plaques and listings, all that good stuff. So we were -- we had to disclose that to our box holders prior to their renewing and I am delighted to say that we had dozens of renewals for the 2000 event prior to the first ball being hit of the 1999 event. And our renewals up at guest services has done very well all week long. I am sure there will be a few people that hold back and wait to see if we have individual seats left next June or July. But they can't sit in the same great location. They don't have the same exclusive amenities; they don't have renewal rights and they have to sit in these specific sections that we allocate.
BUTCH BUCHHOLZ: What you are saying is you have done this?
ANNE WORCESTER: Sorry, Butch. Mike told me you said it was okay.
Q. (inaudible) wanted to see tennis, you had to sit upstairs?
ANNE WORCESTER: We couldn't change it for this year because the people that bought boxes a year ago bought them with the understanding that you couldn't. We did -- like Yale alumni could buy them on an individual basis, USTA, our owner, our host sponsor, I mean, some very special exceptions, but it has been our biggest frustration because to sell 6,000 box seats on a week long basis is and impossibility. You watch the Davis Cup on television in Boston, all that atmosphere, that entire stadium is smaller than our box ring. The players have been playing all summer long in stadia smaller than our box ring. They arrived here and they just can't believe this beautiful facility, professional facility, best treatment room on the Tour according to the WTA Tour trainers. They come into the media center through the back halls. It is first class for them. It is -- there were so many players here for the first time and Lisa Raymond was on the court right now playing her doubles final, just was unsolicited, just so complimentary of the facility here. This facility gets a lot of knocks, but from a tennis player's standpoint, this is like playing in a Grand Slam tournament.
Q. Five-year contract, does that mean beginning next year?
ANNE WORCESTER: This year. Through 2003.
Q. Any kind of pullout during that contract at all? Any language in that --
ANNE WORCESTER: Everybody is committed.
Q. Say you were pretty much leaning towards opening the box seats to individual session --
ANNE WORCESTER: Butch and I are having a misunderstanding here. We have already made that decision. Butch has been in Aspen all summer hiking and biking and finding nature, so I think you missed that. Ron knows about it.
RON SHAW: I have a copy of it.
BUTCH BUCHHOLZ: We have to talk about our communication.
MIKE DAVIES: Don't you remember the conversation we had with you in Aspen when I talked to you about this?
BUTCH BUCHHOLZ: These guys are running it. They have a sense, their finger is on the pulse. And I can't argue with it.
ANNE WORCESTER: Box ring is just so big.
Q. What is your title?
BUTCH BUCHHOLZ: Tournament chairman.
ANNE WORCESTER: The big boss.
BUTCH BUCHHOLZ: No, you are the big boss.
ANNE WORCESTER: Ron is the big boss.
RON SHAW: As the sponsor I wanted to thank all of you obviously to let you know that the results today would be a sponsor's dream come true to have this caliber of tennis player here to have the big names in the finals, it didn't matter who won today. It was just wonderful for us. For us to have our corporate name all over here, and then backed up as Butch said before, by this team and Mike and Butch, if they weren't in this room and if we were just here, if I were here by myself with you, I would tell you in tennis you are not going to get a better team than this. These people know what they are doing; that is why we in turn signed a new five-year agreement and we even asked for a five-year option after the five-year agreement is done. We are quite committed to trying to keep this thing here and based on the crowd reaction this week and especially what happened here last night and today, I am not sure that I have felt more enthusiastic about the future of this event as I do right now. It is a joy to work with them. Again my thanks to all of you for your very positive reporting all during the week.
BUTCH BUCHHOLZ: If I can just finalize, it sounds like Ron and I got this act going here. But you don't run into sponsors in this business that care as much and not only about their community, but about the event and has the flexibility to go with the flow, so to speak, and not always perfect, you know, we don't always deliver and things happen and Ron is so committed to the tournament, to the community, and again, we couldn't do this if we didn't have a title sponsor of the magnitude of what Pilot Pen has done. It is fun. We have actually become friends and there is a business relationship, but it is past that now. It makes it easy to work together.
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