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Meltdown of the Week


Finding Roger Federer Meltdown footage on YouTube is like finding a seat on the Number 4 Lexington Avenue subway at 9:30 in the morning. [Non-New Yorkers, take note: it's rare.] The Greatest of All Time usually deals with blown shots by dragging his middle finger across his forehead and tucking his hair behind his ear. Not this time. This was a semi-final match with Novak Djokovic at the 2009 Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, Florida. Djokovic just broke Fed in the third and deciding set and was up 15-0 when the Greatest of All Time took his eyes off a routine approach shot that could have evened the score. Federer went through lots of racquets when he was playing the junior circuit; wonder if he felt a little wave of nostalgia upon banging this one hard into the court.

On the Sideline

Tennis Fee Hike Did Little to Raise Money, But Much to Deter Tennis

Haters, I was pissed -- and so were many of you -- when New York City's Parks Department raised tennis fees two years ago.  The cost of a seasonal permit doubled, from $100 to $200.  The price of a single-play permit went from $7 to $15. So did the fee to reserve a court in Central Park and Prospect Park.  

The courts at Central Park. Fewer people are making reservations or buying tennis permits because of 2011 fee hike. Photo: Amy Eddings

So, permit me a little schaudenfreude here upon learning that the fee increase did not raise as much money as the Parks Department thought.  That's because it drove people away from the courts.

According to an analysis by the New York City Independent Budget Office, the Parks Department thought it would milk an additional $1.2 million from the hoity-toity, deep-pocketed types who play tennis.  Ha!  We are the 99%, not the 1%.  And we proved it by refusing to pony up more for the opportunity to play on our taxpayer-funded public courts.  

Seasonal tennis permits fell by 43 percent, from 12,774 in 2010 to a paltry 7,265 in 2012. Single-play permits dropped by nearly 46 percent.  And reservations?  They plummeted by 64%.  Rather than make reservations, players chose to take their chances with showing up as walk-ons, or just waiting for a court to open up.

The flight from tennis permits is not due to a lack of Tennis Love in NYC.  It's due to Tennis Hate from Parks. According to IBO, nearly 20,000 permits were sold in 2001.  That was then.  Two fee hikes and ten years later, just 6,818 permits were sold, "nearly two-thirds less than in 2001." 

That fewer people chose to buy permits isn't surprising.  Then-Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe told me he was expecting this to happen.

But what IBO found was the drop-off was steeper than the Parks Department had calculated. Instead of garnering an additional $2.8 million in the first two years of the higher fees, Parks has only raised $520,000 over the $1.8 million it was getting from tennis players in 2010.  

The head of New Yorkers for Parks, Holly Leicht, got it right when she told The New York Times, "For a relatively small amount of savings for the city, this is a really dramatic impact for thousands of people."



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