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September 2, 2006
CHRIS WIDMAIER: Thanks for joining us. We're going to give a brief overview of the ramifications of the rain, what the scheduling moving forward will be.
We have with us Arlen Kantarian, our chief executive of pro tennis at the USTA.
To his left, Jim Curley not only the US Open tournament director, but USTA managing director of tournament operations.
To Jim's left, Brian Earley, the tournament referee, whom many of you know.
And Danny Zausner, who is the managing director of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center right here, home of the US Open.
Without further ado, I'm going to turn it over to Arlen, who is going to give everybody a brief overview, then Jim and Brian will talk about the schedule a little bit, then we'll open it up to questions.
ARLEN KANTARIAN: Thanks, Chris.
First of all, thank you all for your patience and for hanging in there with us. It's obviously been a tremendous start to the tournament. It's certainly a disappointing day and a tough day. I know for all of us and certainly for all of you guys.
We have had a tremendous start. I know the media has been a big part of that. I think it's times like this where we need you guys more than ever to communicate the messages we're about to share with you.
The weather forecast, which I'm sure you're all up to date with, is for rain through a minimum of 10 p.m. tonight and a drizzle throughout the early morning hours. We have gotten a good weather report for Sunday and for Monday. Sounds like clear skies throughout.
We are going to hopefully turn what has become a soggy Saturday to a super Sunday for this sport sometime tomorrow.
There are 254 singles matches that I'm sure, as most of you know, get played throughout a Grand Slam. 196 of those matches have been completed. We'll have 58 left to play.
We're in good shape. We're one day behind. It's been a tough day, but we are one day behind. We expect to be fully caught up by the end of the day tomorrow.
Our focus, given that report, really shifts to fairness to the two or three most important constituencies that we're here to serve, and that is obviously the players, the fans, and certainly you, the media.
Based on that, we've made a number of decisions, some of which you know about, some of which you may not know about in the last hour. I'll share those with you now.
Number one, we have canceled, obviously, today's sessions, and we've canceled tonight's sessions. We canceled that session probably the earliest we've ever canceled a session in advance, certainly in fairness to send the players home, and to give our fans as much notice as possible. All players and fans have now been notified.
Tomorrow's schedule has now been finalized on the show courts, which we will share with you and distribute to you shortly. As part of that new schedule, we will be adding, for the first time, a special night session at Louis Armstrong beginning at 7:30 tomorrow night, on Sunday night. We'll call that session, Session No. 14 B. Obviously Session No. 14 is tomorrow on Sunday night as well.
Let me read off the schedule. Actually, I'll ask Jim Curley, our tournament director, to quickly read off tomorrow's schedule as it relates to Ashe day and night and then Louis Armstrong day, Louis Armstrong special night session at 7:30. We'll distribute these. It was finalized a couple minutes ago.
JIM CURLEY: Just so everyone knows, we're still finalizing the overall schedule. But with regards to Arthur Ashe Stadium and Louis Armstrong Stadium, in Ashe we're going to be starting with Andre Agassi versus Benjamin Becker, followed by Andy Roddick versus Fernando Verdasco, followed by Serena Williams and Ana Ivanovic.
The night session will be Maria Sharapova versus Elena Likhovtseva, followed by James Blake and Carlos Moya.
In Armstrong stadium, during the day, David Nalbandian versus Marat Safin, Wesley Moodie versus Rafa Nadal, Am√É¬©lie Mauresmo versus Mara Santangelo.
As Arlen spoke to a separate session in Louis Armstrong Stadium, starting at 7:30 p.m., Roger Federer versus Vince Spadea, followed by Bob and Mike Bryan versus Thomas Johansson and Robert Lindstedt.
ARLEN KANTARIAN: I think that's been communicated to the players. I know Jim and Brian have talked to most of those players. Everybody is now aware of that schedule.
For our ticketholders, obviously tough days for them. I think you're all aware of our inclement weather policy. We are going to go above and beyond that. We really are asking your help to help communicate that to fans, especially in the New York area.
Five sessions have now been officially canceled to date. Sessions No. 3, 4, 10, 11, and 12 have been canceled. We typically have one option. We are now going to provide fans with three different options to be able to exchange their tickets.
Option No. 1 would be to exchange their tickets from any one of those canceled sessions for the added night session tomorrow night in Louis Armstrong.
No. 2, they can exchange any one of those tickets from those five sessions at this point to any session remaining in this year's 2006 US Open through and including next Thursday night. That's the good news.
The bad news, it's based on availability. We've had very strong ticket sales. In order to get their choice, we ask them to show up to the box office as soon as they can.
Third option is our inclement weather policy, which is they can exchange that ticket for a comparable session and a comparable seat for the 2007 Open next year.
As you know, given the first three sessions canceled, we already offered some of these options for this year. What was it, Danny, almost 5,000 ticketholders had already exchanged tickets, the majority of which exchanged for this year. So hopefully we'll have our fans seeing more tennis at this year's Open. Their option is, however, to come to next year's Open.
That's our player information. That's our fan information. Jim or Brian, if there's anything you'd like to add, otherwise we can open it up for questions at this point.
Q. Assuming you get completely caught up tomorrow, Monday can you give us some information about which half or halves of the draw the men and women will play on Monday?
JIM CURLEY: Actually we won't be fully caught up after tomorrow. We'll still be behind with regards to Nalbandian Safin and Sweeting Rochus on the men's side. On the women's side there's Lindsay and her pairings.
Q. The key question is about Andre. If he wins tomorrow, will he play on Monday?
JIM CURLEY: He is in the bottom half of the men's draw, which is scheduled to then follow up and play on Monday, yes.
Q. What is the total number of fans, spectators, affected by those canceled sessions?
ARLEN KANTARIAN: Well, we've had a record advance sale for this year's Open, beyond any other year. The sessions on Tuesday, had we played tennis, would have had record fans on site. I don't know the number offhand. 40 some odd thousand fans that had planned or attended or bought advanced tickets, including grounds passes.
So the total number in five sessions and remember, the ticket exchanges now are good for those ticketholders who bought tickets through the box office or Ticket Master. For the subscribers, those that have bought boxed seats for the entire tournament, we take care of those folks separately. I would say, what, Danny, 50/50 in terms of ticket buyers and subscribers.
Of the 23,000 some odd people in the stadium, half are box holders, half are individual ticketholders. Take 10,000, roughly five sessions, roughly 50,000 individual ticketholders, rough number.
Q. Have you been able to calculate what kind of financial hit you'll take on this?
ARLEN KANTARIAN: We have. The answer is, A lot.
Q. No number that you can put on it right now?
ARLEN KANTARIAN: Can't put a number on it now. A lot of that's going to depend, of course, on how many people opt to take a session in this year's Open versus next year's Open.
Q. What was the worst previous hit you had, what year?
ARLEN KANTARIAN: I think we sat with you, was it four years ago?
JIM CURLEY: Three years ago.
ARLEN KANTARIAN: Three years ago?
JIM CURLEY: Yes, it was (smiling).
ARLEN KANTARIAN: We had a nice session with you about three years ago when I think we had three and a half days, roughly, in a row with what we call US Open drizzle. I think it was about three and a half years ago. I think it was a little later in the tournament. I think it hit maybe Monday through Thursday.
JIM CURLEY: Correct.
BRIAN EARLEY: 3:00 Thursday afternoon, if I remember correctly.
JIM CURLEY: Some great tennis then.
BRIAN EARLEY: Yeah.
Q. Do you have any backup plan in case it rains next week a couple of days again?
ARLEN KANTARIAN: Well, unfortunately we've had some practice. We're in that mode. In 2003, we had three and a half days of rain in a row, as I mentioned. We did play the men and women. I think it was Thursday women, Friday men. We got into a completely different mode.
It's tough to create all the backup plans necessary when you're in the midst of a live event. We have a team here, and I do want to congratulate and thank Brian and Jim for the work they've done in that scheduling bunker pretty much the whole day.
But we're prepared. We're prepared. Hopefully it will add a little bit more drama to the event. The players have been terrific, by the way. I've talked up front with each of them, particularly Jim and Brian. So far, so good. Again, it's one day at this point. We hope to catch up everybody other than the four matches Jim mentioned by tomorrow.
JIM CURLEY: Just to add to that, with the weather that we're expecting tomorrow and Monday, we fully anticipate being caught up on everything.
Q. With your experiences in 2003 and this year, where does it reach the stage where your contracts with CBS and overseas television networks needs to be serviced, where you need to provide an indoor stadium, even if it's not Ashe, to enable to have programming during rain delays?
ARLEN KANTARIAN: I think that's part of it, not all of it. Obviously, if there were a roof, with all the matches and all the pairings that went out today, it wouldn't solve that problem other than keeping TV in place.
We've looked into a roof. We've done a feasibility study. I think the second one we've done in about 10 years. The footings in 1997 when this stadium was built were engineered out. It would, therefore, cost us, I think we mentioned roughly $80 to $100 million to put in the appropriate roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium. We've made a decision that is not the best way, at this point given the USTA's mission to promote the game. That is not at this point the best expenditure of our money.
We've ruled that out. With regards to our TV partners, in addition to our fans and our players, I think we've had history throughout this kind of situation of being fair to our partners. That hasn't been defined yet, but that will happen.
Q. Have you looked at smaller stadiums around the centre?
ARLEN KANTARIAN: We also looked a bit and that is this is a good question. We looked at the possibility of a covering over Louis Armstrong and our Grandstand. That study continues. We have not completely ruled that out, although that is costly as well, in the area of $30 to $40 million.
Q. In Wimbledon, as soon as it starts to rain, the boys come. Is it not possible on hard court? Is this the reason you're not doing it? Is it easier on grass?
ARLEN KANTARIAN: It's a very good question. In 2003, we pulled together a significant group, significant committee, to look into that. People much smarter than me with regards to how to scientifically dry a hard court in as fast a time a possible.
We've made some changes since, given our Slamboni machines, as you call them. I think I'll let either Jim or Dan answer the question as to why you don't see tarps out on a hard court anywhere with regard to drying.
DANNY ZAUSNER: The most significant difference would be in Wimbledon with the grass surface, it can handle the tarp. With our hard court surface, it would not. We would risk, significantly risk, the blistering on the courts, which we wouldn't want to have happen.
ARLEN KANTARIAN: There was actually a blistering that took place in New Haven years ago after a tarp, I believe, was put on a hard court. The humidity under that tarp. We even looked into the tented tarps ala Wimbledon, but it would not save us any more time.
It's not about getting court drying down from 20 minutes to 15 minutes. I wish that were the solution. But the tarps are not out there in that it would cause blistering according to the scientists and our friends at DecoTurf.
Q. Agassi and Billie Jean King, in your opinion has it offset the rain?
ARLEN KANTARIAN: As I mentioned, certainly the renaming of the tennis center and Billie Jean's involvement here, certainly Andre Agassi, who has just added so much to this sport, a guy who's living proof that charisma, class and character can lift an entire sport, add to that Jimmy Connors who is on hand this year with Andy, and add to that the stories you guys have written about all three of those, that certainly has some kind of offsetting effect.
But, you know, rain is rain. We've been on a rollercoaster. We opened with the legends, Billie Jean and Andre Monday night, rain all day Tuesday. We come back and have one of the greatest classic matches at the US Open on Thursday night. It rains Friday night and Saturday.
Hopefully we'll see the same impact and take this up a notch Sunday and Monday.
JIM CURLEY: The fact everyone is playing tomorrow, we certainly anticipate an incredible day of tennis. For example, when you have Lindsay Davenport playing on grandstand, you know you have a great day of tennis.
Q. Jim, specific to Andre, the potential for him to play back to back on Sunday and Monday, does the player have any recourse in asking for either a late start time on Monday or even to push that back to Tuesday?
JIM CURLEY: Players make requests all the time. Inside the scheduling room, we have forms that they fill out for making all sorts of requests, when to play, when not to play. I'm a coach, I have two players, can you not schedule them at the same time? All those sorts of things.
What we do is we do our best in taking everything into consideration. As far as Andre playing, in your specific case, Sunday and Monday, does he have an opportunity to play Sunday and Tuesday, with good weather, the answer is no.
Q. This being Andre's last tournament, any thought been given to producing a DVD of Andre's final tournament? Is that a salable item by the USTA?
ARLEN KANTARIAN: Anything is salable with Andre involved. We haven't given that a lot of forethought. We certainly expect that our sport will work with Andre in many ways after his life inside the lines, whether that takes the form of DVDs or high performance, what have you.
But nothing, to answer your question, that's been decided at this point. As you know, as we've announced, no planned ceremony. I think Andre wants to get through seven matches, and that's the focus right now.
Q. Does he think that's a marketable item?
ARLEN KANTARIAN: You saw on CBS about eight different matches with Andre Agassi classics all day.
Q. Just this tournament, his performance in this tournament.
ARLEN KANTARIAN: Sure.
CHRIS WIDMAIER: We need to get these guys back in the scheduling room, but one last question.
Q. How much consideration is given to try and keep players fresh, especially if they are supposed to be going back to back with the rain?
JIM CURLEY: I'll let Brian talk to that.
BRIAN EARLEY: When it quits being a day issue, we then know what day they're playing on because there are days they have to play. It becomes a time of day.
Yes, we do our best. If they have to come back the following day, we do our best to keep them in the first half of the day before.
CHRIS WIDMAIER: All right, folks. Thank you.
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