UTC Scores Tourney Naming Rights For $1.5M

Melissa Bailey PhotoConnecticut’s largest private employer has promised to send the city’s annual tennis tournament an influx of money—and potential spectators.

United Technologies Corp (UTC), a Fortune 50 company headquartered in Hartford, stepped up Tuesday as the main sponsor of New Haven’s summer tennis tournament.

Tournament director Anne Worcester tore away a black curtain in the Tennis Center’s media room Tuesday. She revealed the tournament’s new name: the “Connecticut Open presented by United Technologies.”

UTC has agreed to pay $1.5 million to become the headline sponsor for two years, according to state budget director Ben Barnes.

The tournament has been played for over 20 years at a state-built stadium next to the Yale Bowl under various names. It became the “New Haven Open at Yale” in 2010, after its headline sponsor, Pilot Pen, dropped out. Last fall, the state stepped in and bought the rights to the tournament to save it from being stolen by Winston-Salem, N.C.

The tournament, an official Women’s Tennis Association event, takes place August 15 to 23 at the Connecticut Tennis Center at 45 Yale Ave.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy apologized to Mayor Toni Harp for eliminating “New Haven” from the tournament’s name.

“Although we love New Haven and being here and love the mayor, the state needs its recognition as well,” he said.

The city pays about $100,000 towards the tournament each year, and donates various in-kind services, in the form of public safety and public works crews, according to the mayor’s office.

Yale, which has supported the tournament for 17 years, remains a major sponsor, to the tune of about a quarter million dollars per year, according to Barnes, who orchestrated the state-backed tournament rescue. The state bought the rights to the tournament from the United States Tennis Association for $630,000, Barnes said. Yale remains one of five “cornerstone” sponsors, along with Aetna, American Express, First Niagara and Yale-New Haven Hospital.

As it stands, the tournament is not turning a profit. Attendance at the tournament, which takes place each August, has plummeted from a high of 100,375 to about 45,000 last year, according to Worcester. The state will pay $400,000 to subsidize operating costs in the current fiscal year, and another $600,000 next fiscal year, Barnes said.

UTC General Counsel Charlie Gill, who grew up in Westville, not far from the tennis stadium at 45 Yale Ave., outlined plans to attract more spectators. He said the tournament plans to host a special day honoring military personnel and veterans. And the company plans to host a “UTC day,” in which the company’s 25,000 employees will be offered discounted tickets.

The event used to include both men’s and women’s tournaments; now it’s just a women’s tournament. Worcester announced that she has lured back a few recently retired male players—Andy Roddick, Jim Courier and Connecticut’s own James Blake—to play exhibition games this year.

The women’s lineup includes rising stars Canadian Genie Bouchard and Simona Halep and crowd favorite Caroline Wozniacki.

Harp thanked the governor for making the trip to New Haven.

“I’m always happy when the governor comes to town. He never comes empty-handed. He always comes bearing gifts,” Harp said.

She noted that Gill grew up in Westville.

“I’m glad you remembered us,” she said.

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posted by: BetweenTwoRocks on June 10, 2014  3:06pm

I love tennis and I generally support government subsidizing cultural or entertainment attractions in order to continue to make the city more attractive to residents and visitors alike, but the more I read about this, the more I think it just doesn’t make sense to keep throwing money at this venture.

I mean, I understand the tennis complex is pretty much useless without this tournament, but I just can’t help but feel this is a losing battle and every year we continue to throw money at the problem, we’re simply delaying the inevitable.

posted by: kenneth_krayeske on June 10, 2014  3:59pm

$600,000 can buy about 39 slots in Head Start for children. The math is pretty simple: $600,000 so a bunch of tennis pros can play, or $600,000 so 39 children can learn how to read.

The dumb math is the same with the stadium in Hartford. Why is it that we continue to subsidize professional athletes but neglect children? 

And I think UTC can afford it. Malloy just gave them a $400 million tax credit. $1.5 million for a tennis tournament is chump change. http://connecticut.cbslocal.com/2014/04/24/malloy-to-sign-utc-deal-after-senate-passage/

posted by: Noteworthy on June 10, 2014  4:11pm

Fewer people attend this event each year. There are virtually no food vendors anymore. And the big name tennis players are staying away. Stock a fork on it at least from the poor taxpayer’s point of view. Malloy keeps trying to buy the election -  with our money.

posted by: BillSaunders1 on June 10, 2014  9:34pm

Connecticut Open….

That is some weird political marketing messaging…..