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Statement on State Takeover of New Haven Open

  • Oct 10, 2013
  • Ben Zimmer

Buying the rights to run the New Haven Open is just the latest example of the Malloy administration's flawed economic development strategy -- handouts to certain companies paid for by higher taxes on everyone else.

Running tennis tournaments is not the job of state government for the same reason managing restaurants is not government's job -- taxpayers should not be subsidizing entertainment services for which there is insufficient demand.  There is a reason private sector sponsors were not willing to pay enough to keep the tournament here without a government subsidy -- attendance has dropped from more than 80,000 in 2008 to below 50,000 in 2013.   Economic development in Connecticut's urban areas requires a long-term strategy focused on education & workforce development, prudent infrastructure investment, crime prevention, and a less hostile attitude towards business.  Propping up economically unviable tennis tournaments is not the answer.

The Malloy administration defended the decision by citing a 2008 study that the tournament generated $26 million in “economic development” for the New Haven region.  This is like citing Lehman Brothers’ profitability in 2006 as a reason to buy shares in 2008.  The 2008 New Haven Open (then called the “Pilot Pen Open”) was a completely different animal from today’s tournament.  Overall attendance was nearly twice the current level, and the tournament drew the world’s top-ranked players, leading to substantial out-of-state attendance and interest that no longer exists.  If the tournament still resulted in nearly that much economic activity today, it could turn a profit and wouldn’t need state bailout money.