27 August 2017

Cincy - take III

Cincy Stadium

The other day I referred to myself as a lapsed blogger. I had been asked to participate in a podcast called The Night Session:Box Seats by Val from Tennis Inside Out. It was fun to discuss a range of issues going on with the WTA this year, particularly the streaming mess. Take a listen here:



I met Val a few years ago in Cincy and she was one of many awesome Tennis Twitter people I recently hung out with during my return to the Western & Southern Open (more on that later)

Find the beauty of  a rain delay
I always say Cincy is my fave joint event held in the US (other than the US Open - if push came to shove I'd attend that each year if I could only choose one). Each time I've gone to ole Mason, Ohio I have stayed the entire tourney and this year was no exception but a big difference for me this year was that I wasn't credentialed media for the first time - was just a choice I made not to try and cover it for anyone so I was able to be a full-on fan the entire time.

I attended Cincy with my favorite tennis fan - my mom! I told her she has a fan club and I loved introducing her to so many wonderful members of the Tennis Twitter family. It really makes a tourney so fun to catch up with tennis-loving friends, whether onsite during Isner matches, or later at night at Applebees or Brixx! Or on the tennis court....

Art in progress
So why do I love Cincy so much? Well, accommodation is pretty cheap, tickets are easy to buy (and to me quite affordable), I'm a midwesterner and happen to think we make great hosts and I think the Cincy vibe onsite is pretty chill. I always say to anyone who hasn't attended Cincy that it's like a US Open experience without the craziness of NYC and crowds. For the most part, all the top players are there (this year was super funky on the ATP side but I didn't miss anyone) and accessibility is wonderful.

So here are my thoughts on what to expect when attending the Western & Southern Open:

Tickets
Cincy gives good sunsets
We purchased a full package which was around $700 each - this gave us the same seat for every session of this year's tourney. We purchased these back in February and I had tried to get handicap seating for mom (who has a hobby of getting surgeries and recently had food surgery) but I wasn't really successful. Our seats were under the media center (hey y'all) and initially I was annoyed with how high up we were, but then around 1pm each day we were in the shade and I was okay! I have never purchased single session tix to Cincy, but we did sell our finals tix through Twitter, and there is also a few ticket scalpers outside the grounds. I personally have never stopped by to find out about selling tix to them, but if you don't manage to find tix when you're already there, these could be good options.

Food
I think it's pretty hard to get amped about tennis tourney onsite food, especially when you've just eaten two meals a day for 8 straight days! I think the tourney needs to provide healthier options and more variety, but that's me. I recently completed the tourney survey and my three bits of food advice were:
  • More than one coffee place - the existing coffee option was good but it was the furthest food stall from the main entrance and it was the only place selling coffee!
  • Healthier options - one of my fave food stalls in tennis is the awesome salad bar in Miami. So much of the Cincy food court is carbs, carbs, carbs! Pizza, stews, chili, wraps, sandwiches, burgers, etc. I get that Ohio loves its chili, but that's the last thing I want to eat when it's hot! #pass
  • More Asian foods - there was one sushi place which I love but I felt like another Asian option could have been great - even a noodle place or something. 
Eating Graeters is a must do in the hot Mason sun
However, there were some great meal options - the falafel was a fave, and the coffee place had a yummy quiche that came with fruit. The stadium food was average but handy if you are like me and just want to race down and grab something then race back up for a match. The stadium food is hamburgers, hot dogs, brats, popcorn, nachos. It's fairly cheap and did the trick.

In terms of what you can bring in, the official Cincy rules say you can't bring in any food but every day I had nuts and dried fruit in my purse and I had no issues. The rules also say you can only bring in sealed water bottles or empty ones you fill onsite. Well, honestly I obeyed the first few days, then the rest of the time I had no issues bringing in a camelbak bottle filled with ice which was great given how hot it is!

Practice Courts
In general watching players practice in Cincy is pretty great. There's plenty of room to watch and only a few courts have accessibility issues. The Cincy app features a Practice Schedule which is fab. For the most part, it's pretty easy to see on each court, the exception when one of the big stars practice but that's no different than other tourneys. Warning - if your faves practice on court 15 it's very hard to see, but otherwise there's plenty of opportunities to catch your faves practicing. Also, I detest the setup of Courts 16 and 17 when big names practice there but c'est la vie.

One of my fave tennis duos - Davenport and Keys
Player Spotting
If you like seeing players off the court, you're in luck because Mason and Cincy are no NYC so you can try your luck at a few places. Applebees is right near the player hotel (the Marriott) so it's pretty common to see players there, and I have each year I've gone there. Also, Whole Foods is a good spotting place as well and I have heard Kings Island is too.

Where to stay
I have stayed somewhere different every year, and this year picked a hotel about 10 minutes away from the site. I have spent anywhere from $40 a night to $120 a night so there are plenty of options to fit any budget. If you don't have a car, then uber is a great option if that fits your budget. There are shuttles from four partner hotels, but I can't speak to how this works in terms of frequency. If you go this route, you'll need to book your hotel through the tournament (I've done this in Miami). More info here.

Transportation/parking
Rafa practice session
I have only ever had a car when attending Cincy so I have always driven to the site. Two years I attended with my mom and she has handicap access so we parked there. In 2015 I was able to park in media parking. If you buy a package, it usually includes parking.

Getting in and out of the grounds of course depends on your arrival and departure times but expect a gridlock situation if you stay until the end of the night sessions. Also, if it rains, the parking lots can be a MESS. In 2016 apparently 200 cars got stuck so there was more paved parking for some. However, we always parked on grass this year and thankfully it only rained one day/night so we didn't have to endure a muddy situation.

A quick rant - the tourney does great when you arrive onsite and need the handicap parking area. But upon leaving? No system, no clear waiting area for a golf cart and you can only find carts from the north gate which also runs fans without handicap needs to their cars. Just messy - do better Cincy Tennis. Because parking for the public is primarily on grass, my mom struggled to walk to our car when we couldn't find a cart to take us (and with gridlocked traffic some nights I couldn't just get the car and pick her up). As always, the volunteers do their best and you couldn't pay me to try and direct traffic leaving the site at night. So, Cincy Tennis I'll be in touch....

Other tips:
A valuable cup if you like ice!
  • If you don't want to wait in long lines at the North Gate, go around to the west gate. We were dropped off there every day (we parked in handicap parking and the tourney has golf carts to then take you to your gate) and there was never anyone in line! It was super easy and you then enter right by the back practice courts. Easy!
  • The Cincy Ice Game. Every year I've attended Cincy (2012, 2015, 2017) the tourney has a really cool, useful treat for fans. For 25cents, you get a plastic Cincy cup and with it you can get free ice the whole tourney at any of the stadium food stalls. Wonderful! But this year things went a bit awry midweek when all of a sudden the poor stadium workers said ice wasn't free. And then it was again. Anyway, great initiative Cincy but pick it and stick with it!
  • USTA members used to be able to attend a member appreciation day which was held one day of the tourney. This was really fun - it was inside an air-conditioned marquee and they provided snacks and drinks plus you could get a USTA themed gift and get an up close look at the trophies. Sadly, this year the USTA decided not to hold this and instead just had a little tent near others and gave away a free gift. This was really disappointing because I always felt special at Cincy because of this event, and this time as we walked into the stall the two USTA guys barely acknowledged us and did not do much to make me feel like my membership was appreciated! Lame. 
  • There's a little tourney museum just inside the West Entrance and by practice courts 12-15. It's worth a pit stop (and it has A/C)!
  • A Doubles Showdown is organized each year by Wayne Bryan (dad to Mike and Bob) - I can't speak to this as I'd never watched it but it's held early in the tourney and features a range of doubles players. This year I was in the adjacent court to it and there was definitely some loud atmosphere - sounded like fans were having a blast.
So what did I miss? Let me know in the comments! A few more pics:

Grandstand court is >>>

North Gate

Crowded Rafa practice 

View from food court toward Stadium

Player arrival area - very popular with fans

Beautiful sunset over Grandstand

Tennis Channel studio

Can you resist some tennis swag?


View from the nosebleeds (but SHADE)

If you must buy tennis souvenirs.....

See you next time!



2 comments:

  1. Last year I tried selling to scalpers. There's a couple locations. One close to Arby's and another closer to Kings Island I believe. I tried both last year. They barely offered me anything. Last year perhaps wasn't the best year for them due to the rain and players absent, so maybe it isn't the best to go by. It wasn't worth it to me though. Having the ticket stubs with players on them was more worth the little they offered me. Also I didn't want to line their pockets. I will never attempt to sell to them again.

    I also found the north gate to be too crowded to enter at times. Sometimes they only had a few lanes open too and would change which was the express lane each day. I found the east gate was much quicker.

    I went to the museum one day too for the AC. I didn't find it that much cooler though. I tried Midwest Sports later in the week and that was a better AC option, although it's more crowded than the museum.

    I tried getting a souvenir cup with ice late in the week and they had sold out of them and just offered small plastic cups. It was free, but they should probably have enough of the souvenir cups to last the whole week.

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    Replies
    1. Great feedback! Both years I've bought the package in Cincy I sold finals tix but in 2012 I sold to someone looking for tix inside the gate. I always prefer to just sell directly to a tennis fan, and twitter is super helpful in making that happen! I have never sold to scalpers but was curious what kind of money they offer.

      Yes, the Midwest Sports was cold but usually so crowded! I went to the museum first thing in the morning and it felt great in there!

      I think they really stuffed up this year re the cups - I got mine the first day and whoever was in charge of the decisions around the cups/ice deserves a big thumbs down.

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