Kei Nishikori, of Japan, was the winner of the weeklong Sarasota Open USTA/ATP Men’s Professional Tournament, bringing home the $50,000 prize. He beat Brian Dabul, of Argentina, with a score of 2-6, 6-3 and 6-4 Saturday, May 15, at the Longboat Key Club and Resort’s Tennis Gardens facility. But the Sarasota community could be considered the true winner of the event as it reaps the economic benefits of the Sarasota Open.
Tournament founder and Director Tony Driscoll said that a total of 27,726 people attended the tournament as spectators, players, volunteers and/or workers, which is approximately 5,000 more than last year.
Driscoll credited upgraded tenting facilities and events such as Kids Day, Professionals Day and the “Tennis Under the Stars” kickoff event with the tournament’s success, along with the fact that organizers had an entire year to market the event.
“People really got to see what a high-caliber tennis event can be,” he said.
Hotel booking numbers will be available at the end of the week, but Driscoll estimated that 20% of attendees stayed at local hotels. Of those, approximately 30% were international guests. Most of the remaining 70% were Floridians outside of the Sarasota-Manatee area.
The event raised more than $20,000 for children’s charities, Driscoll said.
Katherine Songster, public relations manager at the Longboat Key Club and Resort, said that many rooms at the Key Club were provided on a complimentary basis, as required by the USTA. However, for paid overnight stays, the Key Club had a total of 70 stays above the number that would normally be forecasted for the same week without the tournament.
“Certainly we saw a bump in our nights over what we would expect to see,” Songster said.
But an added benefit is the exposure that the Key Club and the Sarasota area got from the Sarasota Open.
According to a prepared statement from the Sarasota Open, Nishikori fan clubs in Tokyo gathered with members numbering up to 3,000 to watch the Japanese tennis player compete on the Key Club’s courts, and Bradenton-based Taylor Dent’s large American fanbase also drew attention to the area.
Driscoll said that organizers hope the event will gain further recognition and reach 30,000 attendees by next year. He also said that organizers hope to increase prize money for next year’s event.
Contact Robin Hartill at email@example.com.
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