Australian Open ground pass tickets granting access to the outdoor courts have been slammed as “too expensive” with prices doubling in just six years.
As crowds of tennis fans from around the world spill through Melbourne Park’s gates in January, ground pass ticket holders will need to fork out up to $59 to the 2018 event, up from $29 in 2012 – a 103 per cent increase.
The price hike makes it the most expensive ground pass ticket when compared with the other international grand slam events.
Across this period, the overall prize money pool has also more than doubled – from $26 million to an enormous $55 million – with each 2018 singles champion to receive a record $4 million prize.
Australian tennis legend John Alexander, who reached a career-high ranking of No.4 in 1975, said the Australian Open has become “hugely commercial”.
“Sixty dollars just for a ground pass seems high to me,” he told The New Daily.
“It would be expensive to take the whole family out for a day at the tennis.
“There was a time when Wimbledon offered school children day passes for just £1. And I dare say they had a similar opportunity at the Australian Open.”
Alexander, 66, said his father took him to his first Australian tennis championship as a “special treat” in 1959 when he was about eight years old.
“It’s inspiring to go and watch live for the atmosphere. It creates long-time fans and encourages participation in the sport.”
The Australian Open is the first grand slam event of the year, followed by Wimbledon in London, the French Open in Paris and US Open in New York.
While local tickets rise as high as $59, it will cost tennis fans in the UK £25 ($42) to secure a Wimbledon ground pass in 2018.
Ground passes are a popular, “affordable” option for tennis fans, especially young people and families, to experience elite tennis up close.
While children aged three to 14 can enter the grounds at $5 each, for teenagers and adults aged 15 and above, ticket prices jump to $49 during the week and $59 on the first weekend of the two-week event.
But by late January when the Open begins, most Australians have already returned to work after the Christmas-New Year break and, for many, their only option is the pricier weekend ticket option.
The price hike comes despite Margaret Court Arena being excluded from the ground pass ticket in recent years – now only accessible to those willing to pay a premium for a stadium pass.
Dr Keith Parry, a lecturer in sport management at Western Sydney University, said current Australian Open prices would “put a strain” on spectators.
“A family of two adults and two children will be paying $130.65 for a session with the obligatory service and handling fee, even if they opt to print tickets at home,” he said.
Dr Parry said he was an advocate for keeping prices as low as possible to create “increased attendance and a better atmosphere”.
A Tennis Australia spokeswoman told The New Daily that despite the price hike, the Open ground pass remains the “best value ticket in town”.
“We continue to invest in the fan experience by offering more entertainment, family friendly activities, access to more tennis, improved facilities and great food across the precinct,” she said.
“Over the past few years we’ve dramatically increased shade on the outdoor courts, along with free water stations and misting fans to keep everyone hydrated and comfortable on warm days.
“Our aim is to ensure the Australian Open remains affordable for the entire family, great value for money and a perfect summer day out for all ages.”