Tennis has a reputation for luxe elitism, which is just slightly unfair to anyone who's braved the rigid plastic seats of Arthur Ashe Stadium at the US Open, which runs from August 31 to September 13 this year. Managing to sit on them for more than 40 minutes—especially in the midday sun—requires a love of the sport that far outweighs a love of fine things.
Those seats have their uses, though. Beyond a giddy proximity to the top tennis players on the planet, they provide a nice pretext for making the rest of your US Open experience as plush as possible.
Mercedes is the official sponsor of the Open, so if you're one of their VIPs (mostly the players themselves, it turns out), you'll get chauffeured around in one of their cars. If you happen to own a Mercedes yourself, you can park for free at the Open if you show up in one. (Another free perk for those who can afford it.) But the fastest—and priciest—mode of transport is by helicopter. Air Charter Advisors offers trips from heliports around New York City to Laguardia Airport (a 2-minute drive from the Open), with 15 minute flights starting at $2,150 each way. For that price, you can fly up to six people during normal business hours. For everyone else, there's Uber or (gasp) the No. 7 subway line.
Dressing for It
The U.K.'s Wimbledon might be more of an occasion for style statements, but New York's No. 1 tennis fan (Anna Wintour, obviously) finds herself carrying the torch for American style on her own. For the rest of us, Polo by Ralph Lauren will be offering a high-tech alternative to the standard shorts and a T-shirt on the grounds of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center: They're selling a $295 PoloTech smart shirt—a piece of apparel that takes biometric readings of your workouts and feeds them into your phone in real time—for the duration of the tournament.
All the seats might be plastic, but not all of them are created equal. Tickets range from $30 (which gets you a pass to 17 courts, not exactly a bad deal), to $2,000 for a court-side seat at the men's final. You can also buy a court-side box for the full run of the tournament (approximate cost for four box seats: $50,000). Above that are 90 luxury suites that run from $15,000 to $100,000 for a session. (At this point, all of them are sold out.) Courtside seats and luxury boxes come with perks beyond a nice view—depending on your level of access, there's also catering, a black car service, parking passes, and special access to restaurants.
About those restaurants, located in the stadium and accessible only via courtside and luxury suite seats: There's Aces, a seafood-oriented restaurant, and Champions Bar & Grill, both of which Bloomberg reviewed four years ago, at which point the cost of dinner averaged around $60 per person. If you're not in the mood for something so formal, there are plenty of other options. Outposts are spread throughout the center. Most are in the "Food Village" and include Ben & Jerry's (try not to get Chunky Monkey on your new biometric shirt), Hill Country Barbecue, Pat LaFrieda Meat, and Carnegie Deli.
It's natural to want to play tennis after watching it, and if you donate $12,000 to the USTA Foundation, you'll be able to play in their Pro-Am with past tennis stars on Sept. 11, 2015. (Last year, Martina Navratilova and Pat Cash participated.) Less glamorous and less expensive: New York City has hundreds of public courts. Pick up a few passes for $15 and play to your heart's content.
There's no shortage of five-star hotels in New York, and really, recommending the Pierre over the Carlyle or the Crosby over the Gramercy Park would be like saying a Babolat racquet is better than a Wilson—it's just a matter of taste. Instead, why not choose a hotel based on your likelihood of bumping into a tennis star? The St. Regis, located on East 55th Street, will host Venus and Serena Williams for the duration of the tournament. Rooms run from $995 to more than $10,500 a night. (Bumping into Williams sisters in line for the continental breakfast is not guaranteed.)