NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut's professional tennis tournament, on the verge of shutting down a year ago, saw attendance increase this week for the first time since 2005.
Tournament officials said the Connecticut Open wrapped up Sunday with a weeklong crowd of 47,140 at the Connecticut Tennis Center.
The event drew 45,796 last year when it was the New Haven Open. Attendance was still far below the more than 90,000 it drew a decade ago and the 76,480 who came in 2010, the last year it was a combined men's and women's event.
And the attendance Sunday — 3,285 — was the lowest ever for a New Haven final. It was won by Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova over Slovakian Magdalena Rybarikova, 6-4, 6-2.
Last fall, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's administration agreed to spend $618,000 to buy the Women's Tennis Association sanctioning rights to the tournament and keep it from moving to North Carolina. Earlier this year, United Technologies signed on as the main sponsor.
A men's, women's or combined tournament has operated in New Haven since 1990. But the tournament has not had a title sponsor since Pilot Pen left in 2010 along with the male players.
Tournament director Anne Worcester said attendance this year was helped by a player field that included 11 of the top 25 ranked women in the world, and the addition of men's exhibition matches featuring retired stars Andy Roddick, James Blake and Jim Courier. Thursday night's session, when Roddick played Blake, was the most well-attended of the tournament, drawing more than 4,300 fans.
"The guys all say they want to do this again, so I'm already talking to James about how we can grow it for next year," Worcester said. That could include making it a stop on the PowerShares senior tour.
The tournament also expanded its food court offerings and made other changes in an effort to draw fans.
Worcester said there are no plans to try to get the men's ATP to return to New Haven. She said very few top-ranked men play in the final tournament before the U.S. Open and it would not be worth the expense.
State budget director Ben Barnes said there are plans to improve the heating and cooling system and make both the outdoor venue and its indoor spaces viable for other events such as concerts, fundraisers or youth programs.
Barnes said its costs about $4 million a year to run the tournament, and the state is planning to spend about $600,000 on it this year, in addition to $1.2 million for capital improvements to the building.
"I'm hopeful that this tournament will be largely self-supporting, without operating support from the state within a few years," he said.
The last economic impact study of the tournament, conducted in 2008, found it generated approximately $26 million in regional economic impact, including almost 300 jobs and $1.1 million in state tax revenue.