No sign of recession so far at Wimbledon

So far, there's no such thing as a recession at the All England Club.

updated: June 23, 2009 16:05 IST
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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.

Thousands lined up for tickets in the sunshine on Tuesday morning as well, courts were near capacity even for low-profile matches, and the tables at the outside Champagne Bar were full.

"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 the grass-court tournament has been a tradition for decades for thousands of Brits, 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 people, an increase of nearly 3,500 people from the previous opening day record from 2001. More than 14,000 people 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 27,750 pounds ($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 a mere 5,550 pounds ($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 59.5 million pounds ($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 was introduced this year.

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."