The US Open experience, Part 1
FEEL THE GAME - Bobby Motus (The Freeman) - September 20, 2019 - 12:00am

After having a close encounter with Roger Federer a few days before, me, my wife and mom-in-law decided to go to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, taking advantage of the free admission because it’s Fan Week, and also with the hope of getting some more autographs from the tennis stars.

Getting inside one of the subway stations in Manhattan to catch the 7 train to Flushing Meadows, you have to go through the rush of humanity getting connections to other stations, not to mention some groups of performers or occasional musicians on some corners hoping that you’ll be generous with your dollar.

The train snakes from underground in Manhattan, speeding under the East River and then to Queens where it sees daylight running on elevated tracks.  Along the way, you’ll see buildings constructed in the early 1900s, a stark contrast from the modern high-rise apartments of the now distant Manhattan.

You’ll know you’re nearing your destination because the venue is visible as the train nears the Mets-Willets Point Station, the train stop where you get off.  You follow the crowd through a board walk where you can see below a train yard.  Across the station is the Citi Field, the home of the New York Mets baseball team. 

Because we went there during fan week, a Friday, the train was a bit full but not packed as the tournament is yet to start officially in two days.  Security was tight and prior to entering the venue, backpacks and large bags are to be deposited at a designated locker, for a $5 fee.  Inside, we were assisted by a staff member, a Cebuano from Lahug.  He probably heard us ‘nag-Binisaya’ that he approached us.

The complex occupies an area of about 18 hectares which houses Arthur Ashe Stadium, the largest in the world that can seat 23,770 fans, the Louis Armstrong Stadium (14,000 seats) and the Grandstand (8,130 seats). Scattered around the complex are 30 other tennis courts, all with cushioned acrylic surfaces which are re-surfaced a month before the tournament starts.

Average ticket prices at the Arthur Ashe Stadium with a new retractable roof when hostilities began was $220, other venues averaged $135. The most expensive seats can be had at $3,700.  There’s a $35 entrance fee and that admits you to the open courts on a first come, first served basis.  Almost 10,000 seats were added all across the venue and we could only imagine all the revenue generated in three weeks, including the Fan Week.

It’s a massive site and scattered around the area are food stalls, coffee stands, bars, branded shops and tents.  Yes, indeed, that place is a burial ground for your hard-earned money with all the eye candies around.  You need to have the strong resolve of the most pious monk not to give in to the temptations, especially the caps and shirts that don’t go down below $25.  Newly migrated to the US, I could not bring myself to spend on US Open merchandise as there’s always the tendency to convert dollars to our currency.

I suppose you’ve seen the line umpires, the ball boys and girls outfitted with Ralph Lauren apparels from head to foot.  They have a big shop selling them - from caps, to towels to socks to umbrellas.   They’re nice but the prices are not friendly.

It was a good idea to bring some food and water.  Of course, there are lots of food but prices are atrocious.  A 12 ounce Coke sells for $6.50, a can of Heineken beer goes for $12.  A Grey Goose vodka mix sets you back $20.  If booze is too early for you, there’s a Lavazza shop brewing one of the best Italian coffees.   I’m a coffee drinker but could not find the sweetness in the bitter with the $7.50 tag. 

Mercedes Benz is a major US Open partner and their high-end models were displayed inside their tent.  People can sit inside the cars, smell and feel what a luxury car is like.  I was attracted most to the matte black 2019 G500 Wagon and was amused with the Chinese-looking kid happily playing with the switches on the digital dashboard.  His father sternly told him to stop but the kid replied something like, “I want this broken so you can buy the car”.  I don’t know if his dad bought it.

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