State Buying New Haven Open Tennis

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With the future of New Haven’s professional tennis tournament in doubt, the state is moving to purchase the event.

The Capitol Region Development Authority will vote next week on purchasing the New Haven Open women’s tennis tournament from the United States Tennis Association. The cost for the state and the CRDA is expected to be $618,000.

The move was announced on a teleconference Thursday afternoon.

The state will be purchasing the rights to the Women’s Tennis Association event — known as a “WTA sanction” — after months of negotiations. The event was nearly sold to the operators of a men’s ATP event that runs simultaneously in Winston-Salem, N.C., but the North Carolina tournament was unable to secure approval from the men’s tour for scheduling purposes.

When the sale to Winston-Salem stalled, the state stepped in. The sale of the event to the state was approved by the USTA earlier this week. The 13-member CRDA will vote on the purchase at its next meeting on Oct. 17 in Hartford.

The CRDA was created by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy last year as an agency to promote economic growth in Greater Hartford and surrounding regions. The agency oversees the XL Center, Rentschler Field and the Connecticut Convention Center.

The New Haven Open is played at the Connecticut Tennis Center, which was built by the state in 1991. The 16-year-old event has seen a decline in attendance — the tournament drew 45,796 this year, down from 53,004 in 2012 —but a 2008 study estimates the tournament generates about $26 million in economic impact and $1.1 million in state tax revenue.

“Clearly, the tennis tournament has an enormous economic impact,” said Ben Barnes, Secretary of the state Office of Policy and Management. “It is an important part of the identify of the community. … Plus, the sanction is asset. We can sell the sanction in the future.”

Barnes said the tournament will likely retain the name New Haven Open, unless a sponsor offers to purchase the naming rights. Pilot Pen ended its sponsorship after the 2010 tournament and the event has had five primary sponsors (Aetna, American Express, First Niagara, Yale and Yale-New Haven Hospital) the past three years.

While the state is taking ownership of the tournament, the five primary sponsors are also renewing their deals.

The tournament will be held Aug. 15-23, 2014, the week before the U.S. Open.

Story By Paul Doyle and Christopher Keating, Hartford Courant; Video By Louisa Moller, Fox CT

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