MOORILLA Hobart International tournament director Mark Handley has allayed fears that the state’s premier tennis event has a clouded future, despite slightly disappointing crowds and deals with two key partners coming to an end.
Attendance numbers for the 2013 spectacle, won by Russian Elena Vesnina on Saturday, were lower than anticipated, while partnerships with major sponsors Moorilla and Jetstar have expired.
The past two tournaments have been hit with poor weather and although there were no such issues last week, other factors certainly played a part in keeping some patrons away.
The devastating bushfires affected many in southern Tasmania, tough economic times leave little disposal income for many families and Handley believes others may have opted to instead visit events not regular to town, such as the Moscow Circus.
While luring a household name of the WTA tour could help bring fans through the gate, Handley is casting a wider net in ensuring Hobart remains part of the summer Australian Open series.
“Obviously a superstar would be great but that is only short-lived, like Serena (Williams) in 2007, but we haven’t really had a superstar since,” Handley said.
“We would like to think we can create something that will have longevity over a period of time.
“It is a tennis tournament, yes, but what can we value-add to it to make it more than just a tennis tournament? Perhaps we look at multi-sports, or diversifying into other entertainment areas to draw upon that fan or consumer who wants to go and see something.
“We need to look at the way we deliver the event, we need to thoroughly research what the consumer wants and what the general public are after.
“We are spot-on in terms of operations, now it is about developing a product people want to come to, and that may or may not necessarily be just tennis.
“Tennis Australia are very supportive of it, it is secure for now but there is going to be increased competition, that is just a fact of life. Adelaide and Canberra are coming online with newer facilities, they are perhaps the only two that haven’t had a redevelopment.
“It is a challenge but it is a nice little wake-up call to sit back and go ‘we have got to do something about this in order to stay involved in the AO series calendar’.”
Having now overseen his second tournament, Handley couldn’t be happier with the efforts of his staff and volunteers all that is left is to see how things run at capacity.
“Functionally the tournament went very smoothly we are more than happy with the way the event has been presented,” he said.
This year crowds were 2000 and 2500 fewer than for the 2011 and 2012 events.
“From that perspective it’s disappointing,” Handley said.