When the Nassau Coliseum re-opened after renovations in 2017, the Islanders hadn’t yet committed to coming back to play some games so the building needed other events to fill dates. Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment (now BSE Global) went to work to bring the best possible sporting events, concerts and family shows and one of those efforts would be partnering with GF Sports to relocate the Memphis Open tennis event on the ATP Tour to Long Island.
The New York Open debuted last year at NYCB Live, home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum giving local tennis fans that would generally flock to the U.S. Open during the summer an opportunity to experience a winter indoor event. The week-long event returns to the black courts in Uniondale this year from February 9 to 17 and will look to build upon last year’s maiden voyage.
“I think that everybody was pretty happy with the result,” said tournament director Josh Ripple. “The players thought it was heads and shoulders above where they came from. We brought it here for a lot of different reasons but the main reason was to be able to put it on a real stage and I think that the guys at the ATP Tour were, from a governing body standpoint, were ecstatic.”
The New York Open has a unique setup on the Coliseum floor with two courts separated by a tower that includes viewing areas for fans. With two matches going on at the same time, fans could watch both from the structure or fans who purchase tickets can watch the primary match from their assigned seat while also walking around to the other court on watching in general admission seats.
It was a good first year, but now the objective is to grow the tournament in years to come.
“I think the production of it all hit a home run,” said Ripple. “From a business standpoint, I think (last year) hit were we thought it was going to hit. Any professional event in their first year has to get its toe dipped in the water and I think we did a really good job in planting all the right seeds to grow going forward.”
As the week went on last year, the crowds grew to the point where there were about 2,000 fans at the Coliseum from the Wednesday night/Thursday sessions right through to the finals and a crowd of over 2,100. For this year’s tournament, sales are 50% better than when they were last year.
There is a long-term agreement to have the tournament at the Coliseum so the plan is to see the New York Open get bigger and bigger each year.
“It’s a growing, living, breathing thing and it will take us about three or four years to gain a tremendous amount of traction in the marketplace,” said Ripple. “I think that the building is fantastic for a professional tennis event. The building is big enough that you can do what we did on that floor.”
As far as the field for this year’s event is concerned, most of the players that participated last year are back including defending champion Kevin Anderson who is ranked 6th in the world and American John Isner who is ranked 10th. Other notable American players that are scheduled to participate are Steve Johnson (#33), Ryan Harrison (#81), Jack Sock (#105) and Long Island native Noah Rubin who is currently ranked 141st in the world.
“I think we’re both happy and a bit lucky,” said Ripple. “The guys who played last year are all coming back with the only noted exception being Kei Nishikori who unfortunately decided he was going to play the European swing as opposed to the North American swing.”
After the Coliseum re-opened in April of 2017 with a Billy Joel concert, many dates at the barn were filled with Long Island Nets basketball, concerts, family shows, college hockey and then the inaugural New York Open last February. Fast forward a year and now the Islanders are back playing 21 games at their former long-time home this season and twenty more in each of the next two seasons.
The return of the Islanders is not only great for the Coliseum but also for the tennis tournament.
“The Islanders, at the end of the day, are the greatest thing that’s going to happen to the building and to the tennis event,” said Ripple. “Having the Islanders there is huge. People are going there so all of the events in the building are going to benefit from the fact that the Islanders are there and I hope the Islanders never leave there.”
Last year, the tournament kicked off on a Sunday night with an exhibition featuring John McEnroe, James Blake, Sloane Stephens and Genie Bouchard. This year, the New York Open festivities will begin on Saturday night February 9th with an exhibition match between Andy Roddick and Jim Courier. The match will begin at 730 but the event begins at 6pm with culinary event called “Taste of the New York Open”.
The event, hosted by Roddick, Courier and celebrity chef David Burke will serve as the official ATP Tour player party but it will also be open to fans with about 400 tickets available to purchase. Burke, who has two restaurants at the Garden City Hotel on Long Island, will have his culinary talents on display at the VIP event as well as throughout the Coliseum during the week at general concession stands and hospitality areas.
“Food has become such a big part of not only tennis fans but all fans,” said Ripple. “We’re very fortunate to have a guy like Chef David Burke who is really passionate about tennis.”
Fans who purchase tickets for “Taste of the New York Open” will enjoy VIP seats for the Roddick/Courier match.
When people think about tennis in New York, obviously the U.S. Open always comes to mind, but now there is a new tournament in town fans the chance to enjoy some pretty good tennis up close in an intimate setting. Along with the Saturday night opening event with Taste of the New York Open, the New York Tennis Expo fan fest, and a week full of tennis on the black courts of Nassau Coliseum, the New York Open has a little something for everyone.