Is a corporate box worth it at Auckland’s ASB Classic? Herald writer Bonnie Jansen spent a double session in the luxurious setup, so you don’t have to. Here’s her verdict.
Nothing in New Zealand sport compares with the setting and ambience at Auckland’s ASB Classic.
The sweet sound of an ace or a smashed volley, followed by a “Vamos” and the crowd erupting; a car grunting up towards the State Highway One on-ramp, and the rescue helicopter or ambulance pulling into the hospital, next door.
There are some sounds that in the tennis world are unique to the Classic: the courtside popping of Champagne bottles, beers cheers-ing and cutlery scraping plates. That’s because, as tournament director Nicholas Lamperin explains, the services at Auckland’s ATP and WTA tennis events are unmatched around the world.
“It’s the only tournament in the world where you can dine and drink being courtside,” says the Frenchman. “That’s one of the strong points of the ASB Classic is that unique offering for the corporates.
Bonnie Jansen enjoys a glass of G.H. Mumm ahead of a women's night session at the ASB Classic. Photo / Supplied
“It’s an important part for us, not only in terms of experience but also in terms of revenue.” .
The boxes are hot property. Lamperin says boxes for the men’s week sold out months before the tournament.
“The women’s week was a little bit slower, but only because it’s the first week of January and many people were away.”
But as the event came closer, people were purchasing corporate boxes daily.
Corporate boxes at the tennis are run by coneystanleyEvents, the events company run by former netball ace Julie Coney and All Blacks legend Joe Stanley. Coney says the price for a box can vary depending on the session and box location.
There are three tiers, with ground-level boxes along the sides of the court being the cheapest. These boxes have no shade. Behind those are umbrella boxes, which cost about $100 more per session than those without umbrellas. The prime boxes are at the northern end of the court. They have the best view of the match and comfortable director chairs.
Umbrella boxes for one session early in the women’s week went for $865 (excluding GST) – about $144 for each of the box’s six occupants. The same box late in the men’s week would set you back $1490 for a session. An umbrella-covered box for the duration of the men’s tournament cost $11,572.
The cost of food and drink in your box is extra.
“Compared with the price of corporate hosting at, say, the rugby, this is pretty affordable,” Coney says.
What are corporate boxes like?
It’s hard not to feel special in a courtside corporate box at the ASB Classic. Aside from the food and beverage being delivered to you as you please, and the odd famous face to be spotted in the boxes nearby, it’s remarkable being parked so close to the action.
And by close, I mean you’re immediately noticing (and in awe of) these players’ incredible builds and athleticism.
There are two lines of boxes on either side of the court and another batch at the northern end (nearer the harbour).
It’s an intimate set-up - as the new Auckland stadium should aspire to be.
The boxes seat 4-6 people, and you want to arrive before your guests to lock in that front-row seat. There’s sometimes fiddly manoeuvring required to make sure you’re not blocking other guests or having your neck locked sideways for the session.
With such a low-level perspective in the courtside boxes, the view of the entire court isn’t always the best. You might find yourself swaying back and forth in your seat as a point plays thanks to the umpire’s chairs, and broadcasting cameras in the way. On the other hand, you could also be near a coach’s box, or the player’s bench, getting great entertainment at a change of ends.
But beware, in the boxes you are a prime subject for public ridicule. When you’re perched in the G.H Mumm box, stuffing your face with fresh ciabatta or downing a chilled glass of Champagne, expect a message from a friend in the stands above who’s spotted your grazing. You can also expect photo messages from people watching at home, who have caught you on the big screen stuffing yourself with cheese and crackers.
Be sun smart: Even if you’re in a box with shade, you can expect to get a lot of heat. Bring a hat and cover up.
If you’re lucky, a player might even fall into your corporate box.
Food and beverage
The 24-piece box of sushi cost $95 in a corporate box at the ASB Classic.
Competitive or steep? It’s hard to tell when the prices for the bars and food trucks in the vicinity are also steep ($8.50 for a service station pie).
The event was made for Gen Zers: Order and pay for your food and drink by scanning the QR code in your box and it quickly arrives.
The drinks prices are in line with what you’d pay in most half-decent bars around Auckland. The $95 price for a 24-piece sushi box was a step up. I can report it’s delicious sushi, though.
Lamperin says they work closely with their catering partner to find an appropriate price point, but acknowledges the need to cover expenses.
“We have a lot of cost in terms of infrastructure because we need a professional kitchen within the carpark, which is somehow reflected in the price.”
The best corporate box food options at this year’s tournament are three different grazing boxes (charcuterie, antipasto and sushi) upwards of $85. Otherwise, you’re looking at around $50 for a main or $15 for a side salad.
The salmon was $52.
The $52 salmon which can be ordered from a corporate box at the ASB Classic.
Do the players mind?
Tennis spectators around the world are expected to be quiet during play. A fan will be shushed by the umpire or a player won’t start the point if too much noise is being made.
There’s no talking, letting your phone ring, clinking glasses or walking to your seat as players are in action. Nor should you blow your nose loudly as a player starts to serve, as Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown did during a night session at women’s week.
You’d think with the dining option these corporate boxes offer – and the tendency for Kiwi sports fans to be loud and boozy – top tennis players would get irritated at the ASB Classic.
However, Lamperin says that’s not the case.
Spectators look on as Coco Gauff plays a shot to Emma Navarro during their singles semifinal. Photo / Photosport
“[Players] never complain about it – they’re actually quite enjoying it.
“It’s part of the Auckland experience and all the corporate guests are also very mindful about not trying to disturb the players when it plays on,” he says. “It’s not really an issue for anyone.”
Bonnie Jansen is a multimedia journalist in the NZME Sports team. She’s a keen footballer and has worked with the Alternative Commentary Collective and was part of the Te Rito cadetship scheme before becoming a full-time journalist.
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