The following is an excerpt from the new book by Tennis Hall of Famer Sidney Wood THE WIMBLEDON FINAL THAT NEVER WAS…AND OTHER TENNIS TALES FROM A BYGONE ERA ($19.95, New Chapter Press, available for sale on amazon.com that outlines how box seats at the US Open was first created.
In the post-World War I era, with headliner stadium-fillers such as Ellsworth Vines, Don Budge, Fred Perry and Bobby Riggs moving on to successively join the pay-for play circuit, amateur tennis fell deeper into the depths of spectator disinterest year after year. Our National Championship, the modern-day US Open, was played at an initially overflowing Forest Hills stadium (during the era of Bill Tilden, Bill Johnston, Vincent Richards, Rene Lacoste, Henri Cochet and Jean Borotra), but as public interest declined, blocks of tickets were handed out to such as the Boy Scouts and YMCA to add a few bodies to the embarrassingly thin spectator presence.
The U.S. Lawn Tennis Association was so impoverished that its Davis Cup captains were named not for their tennis savvy but because they could pay their own way!
In the 1940s, I got the idea of fitting 22 eight-seat boxes against the 14-foot stadium interior west wall in the stadium of Forest Hills to bring in some higher price, high profile spectators. In a typical official reaction to any new idea, my untraditional stadium presentation was zapped – that is, until I offered to bank the installation, to be reimbursed from box sales. Guess what. In a single morning, I had no problem selling all 176 seats to corporate and other tennis-booster friends for a net pickup of a more-than-welcome three grand.
The entire 12,000-seat stadium, sparsely attended, even for the weekend finals, cleared, I believe, less than $15,000.