US Open a big boost to Queens business


| tcullen@queenscourier.com |

Thousands of fans from across the country and around the world pour into the city at summer’s end to watch some of the world’s biggest tennis stars battle it out in the final leg of the Grand Slam.

The U.S. Open not only showcases the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, but a number of businesses as well — ranging from hospitality to landscape.

Keil Bros. Garden Center & Nursery in Bayside has done the groundswork for the national championship for more than 25 years, according to Russ Bodenhorn, the company’s general manager. The 82-year-old groundskeeping company works around the calendar on the Tennis Center’s layout, he said.

“As soon as this year’s open is over and completed, and they begin their clean up and tear-down process…we start planning for next year already,” he said. “We’ll sit down with the executives, the administration and say ‘what worked for you, what didn’t work?’”

The month-and-a-half leading up to the Open, the landscapers deal with the outdoor work, Bodenhorn said, with the last few days focusing on interior greenery in luxury boxes and hospitality stands.

The Open is a big boost to the economy citywide, he said, but is especially a plus for local, Queens-based businesses.

“Even just the local Flushing economy flourishes,” Bodenhorn said. “Tennis brings in an awful lot [of economic activity].”

A number of LaGuardia Airport hotels are also partnered with the Tennis Association to help handle the scores of fans coming in.

“It’s pretty much our busiest weeks of the year,” said Jim Norris, general manager of the Hampton Inn LaGuardia. “It definitely helps out this area.”

Over the last 10 to 15 years, Norris said he has seen a number of people return year after year to the hotels.

“They love it,” he said. “We have people that come back year after year.”

Daniel Zausner, managing director of the Tennis Center, said the U.S. Tennis Association not only partners with a number of Queens businesses, but many of those temporarily hired for the event live in Queens.

“We hire over 6,000 people [in total] each year for the tournament, some of them come in as early as February,” he said. “Eighty-five percent of those people are New York City based; over 40 percent of them are from Queens alone. You’re talking about 2,500 jobs just for Queens residents.”

As the Tennis Center will undergo renovations and expansions in the fall 2013, Zausner said the number of employees will potentially go up — as the center is expected to see an additional million visitors a day following the revamp.

“There will be a need to hire more people to work the events,” he said. “We’re all about supporting our neighbors. There’s a great benefit for us to use Queens residents.”