No sign of recession at Wimbledon
WIMBLEDON, England -- So far, there's no such thing as a recession at the All England Club.
While the rest of Britain -- and much of the world -- grapples with the global financial downturn, Wimbledon sold more tickets than ever on its opening day. And then it followed that up with record attendance on Tuesday with 45,955.
Thousands lined up for tickets in the sunshine on Tuesday, with courts near capacity for low-profile matches and tables full at the outside Champagne Bar.
"It seems people are saying, 'Forget about the recession. Let's go to Wimbledon and have some fun,'" said All England Club spokesman Johnny Perkins. "People are sitting down and trying to decide what to spend their hard-earned money on. The good news for Wimbledon is, they seem to be spending it here."
Spending a summer day at the grass-court tournament has been a tradition for decades for thousands of Britons, and it seems to be a habit they're unwilling to give up -- strawberries and all -- even in troubled times.
Monday's attendance reached 42,811, an increase of nearly 3,500 from the previous opening day record from 2001. More than 14,000 lined up in the ticket queue Monday -- up by about 1,600 from last year.
Organizers will not release figures for pre-tournament ticket requests but say they received about 20 percent more than last year.
"It's still massively oversubscribed," said Henry O'Grady, another club spokesman. "If the capacity here was 100,000, there'd be 100,000 here."
In another sign of financial strength, the All England Club recently sold out 2,500 Centre Court seats in five-year blocks for $45,600 each. Buyers have the right to one reserved seat on Centre Court for every day of the tournament between the years 2011-15.
At $9,120 per year, that's nearly five times the price for the best season tickets at nearby Premier League club Chelsea.
The five-year debentures sold out in May and were "significantly oversubscribed," raising a total of $97.8 million, the All England Club said.
"That's how we get money to generate new facilities," Perkins said.
Wimbledon organizers recently completed the construction of the new retractable roof over Centre Court -- the exact cost hasn't been released -- and a new Court 2 with increased capacity.
But not even Wimbledon is pretending to be immune to the outside financial climate.
"Recession-proof would be the wrong term," Perkins said. "[We have] an ability to ride out a recession, perhaps better than some other organizations that may have taken a more short-term view of things. ... A premier event like Wimbledon has a hold on people's emotions."Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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