Attendance was down again at the New Haven Open tennis tournament, by 7,208 fans, but tournament director Anne Worcester said paid attendance was up.
"Our ticket revenues are up every day but one day, when it rained Thursday," Worcester said. "We have exceeded last year's daily ticket revenue."
Attendance fell from 53,004 last year over the nine days of the tournament to 45,796.
"We need to do a better job of selling tickets and of getting people out here," Worcester said. "I'm, of course, not happy that our total attendance is down."
This is an important time for the tennis tournament, which needs to renew its five cornerstone sponsors -- First Niagara, Yale University, Yale-New Haven Hospital, American Express and Aetna -- after an initial three-year commitment.
"All five cornerstones have indicated they want this tournament to continue, they want to be a part of it," Worcester said. "I have had nothing but positive signs about all five cornerstones continuing. It's a matter of what level, what assets do you want in your package. We have to sit down very soon here and have five different negotiations."
This year, the tournament consolidated the fans into the lower box seat ring, which seats 5,500, shutting off the upper ring of the Connecticut Tennis Center. The entire stadium seats 13,000. As a result of the consolidation, Worcester said, the tournament gave away fewer complimentary tickets to charity groups and the like and also cut back on the amount of tickets they gave sponsors.
There also was an approximately 10 percent drop in ticket sales to weeklong box holders, some of whom may have bought other, smaller ticket packages.
But Worcester said there was a 5 percent increase in individual sales. On Kids Day, last Sunday, the attendance fell from 5,412 last year to 4,198 this year but ticket sales were up that day from 1,865 last year to 3,206 this year, Worcester said.
"What keeps the lights on here and what keeps this tournament going is ticket revenues, not published numbers," she said. "It doesn't mean we're not going to try to do better next year."
Worcester was also pleased that Gov. Dannel Malloy visited the tournament Wednesday. The state gave the Tennis Foundation of Connecticut a $400,000 grant to cover the maintenance of the center this year and it also approved $260,000 in improvements, which included painting railings and steps, new concession stand facades, counters and lighting and upgraded bathrooms.
"They want to do more," Worcester said. "I don't know what that means yet. That's a very important piece of this."