Inside the U.S. Open's Massive Manhattan Activation

The Queens-based tennis tournament is hosting a large-scale activation in the South Street Seaport this year to increase buzz around the event.

By Rayna Katz August 23, 2017, 7:15 AM EDT

The activation by DKC Incite/HangarFour will include bleacher seating for as many as 120, or standing room for 150 tennis fans on the court.

Rendering: Courtesy of the US Open

U.S. Open Experience
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Looking to expand its reach and social-media engagement, the U.S. Open tennis tournament has created a Manhattan activation that’s much larger than what it has ever before brought to the borough.

The activation, dubbed the U.S. Open Experience, will be located in the South Street Seaport in Lower Manhattan Thursday and Friday, and serve as a precursor to the annual tennis contest, which will take place August 28 to September 10 at the U.S.T.A. Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, Queens.

Created by DKC Incite/HangarFour, the U.S. Open Experience will span about 24,000 square feet and will feature replicas of several key structures at the stadium, including the Unisphere, first created for the 1964-1965 World’s Fair, and the venue’s atrium. It will also include a 27- by 60-foot-long roofed tennis court.

“For a number of years we've done an experiential activation in Manhattan but on a smaller scale,” said Nicole Kankam, managing director of marketing for the United States Tennis Association. “This year, we wanted more excitement. We're expecting a tremendous turnout, which would serve as a benchmark for what we hope to be an annual event.” 

Dusty Bennett, executive producer of DKC Incite/HangarFour, said the Seaport was chosen as the location because of its history as well as for the flexibility the area provides. “We chose the seaport district because it’s an iconic part of the city, which we wanted because the tournament is an iconic New York experience,” he said. “Also, we had more freedom there with the production schedule, because it’s a privately owned venue.” 

A highlight of the experience will be the U.S. Open Draw, when player match-ups are revealed, on Friday. Typically live-streamed exclusively on the U.S.T.A.’s website, the event this year will stream on all of the association’s social channels including Facebook Live. ESPN will broadcast on site.

Similar to its presence at the tennis stadium, Heineken will sponsor a nightly happy hour with musical entertainment and food. Chase also will sponsor a stage, which will host a photo activation with the US Open Trophy and book and autograph signings with players, who will be available for some open-play games.

On Thursday, during the day, a tasting hosted by entertainer Carson Kressley will feature bites from Korilla BBQ including spicy pork tacos and salmon with ginger ponzu dressing and other garnishes. On Friday, celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson will sign copies of his latest cookbook and discuss what he will be serving during the games. 

Additionally, Mount Sinai hospital will be on hand for health screenings (including, of course, one for tennis elbow), and Mercedes-Benz will have a car display. Spectrum (formerly Time Warner) is sponsoring a photo op with an umpire’s chair replica, and Lavazza is providing cold-brew coffee.

Lastly, U.S.T.A. will kick off the activation Thursday by hosting events tied to Net Generation, a new program for children interested in tennis that will be fully unveiled on Saturday, during the tennis tournament. 

“On a given day, about 1,000 people come through the seaport, and we think the turnout will be even higher [during the activation], hopefully into the tens of thousands,” Bennett said. “We want people to feel like this is something they can be a part of, and for Lower Manhattan residents to feel like its part of the neighborhood.”

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