NEW HAVEN -- There has been a professional tennis tournament played in New Haven, in one form or another, for the past 30 years. That streak is now likely over.
The Connecticut Open WTA tournament has been sold to a group that is moving the event to China.
Tournament Director Anne Worcester thanked the state, which bought the tournament for just over $600,000 in 2013 to prevent it from moving. The State Bond Commission also, in recent yeas, approved $2.5 million for upgrades to the Connecticut Tennis Center.
However, with the lack of a title sponsor and dwindling ticket sales, it was game, set match.
Ultimately, the organizers of the Connecticut Open say they had to sell.
"It’s about a $4.5 million total annual budget," said Worcester, who noted the tournament barely broke even for years.
"If we could sell more tickets and keep our expenses down, that would be a healthier financial model," she said.
Ticket sales for last year's tournament were just over 50,000. That's less than half the number during the tournament's best years.
But, Worcester blames the decision to sell largely on the 13,000 seat stadium's design.
"The stadium was built without sponsor suites, without any kind of catering facilities and with a scoreboard that was obsolete in 10 minutes," she said.
And ,without sponsor suites and catering facilities, "we were spending $500,000 a year in temporary infrastructure, which is crazy."
The state contributed over $15 million to build the stadium, nearly 30 years ago.
"They built this stadium too a big for tennis," Worcester added. "Somebody’s ego got in the way."
The economic impact of this event to New Haven and the surrounding communities, according to the Tennis Foundation of Connecticut, is $10 million annually.
"It’s jobs. It’s tax revenue. It’s plumbers, electricians, printing companies, hotels, restaurants.," Worcester said.
She remains confident professional tennis will return to New Haven over the next year or two, but probably at a much lower level.
Worcester met with Gov. Ned Lamont (D-Connecticut) and Mayor Toni N. Harp (D-New Haven) over the past couple of days and she says they are both supportive of efforts to re-imagine tennis in New Haven.
And, she notes, the sale of the tournament will result in the state being reimbursed the hundreds of thousands of dollars invested to purchase the tournament in 2013.