January 30, 2023 | By Graeme Kemlo
The 2023 Australian Open set an all-time record for the tournament and made good on its ambition to attract 900,000 attendees over the three weeks the event had racquets swinging at Melbourne Park, proving that pre-pandemic demand is back.
Day six of the tournament – its first weekend day – drew a record single day attendance of 94,854, while last night’s men’s final drew an enormous 45,000-plus to Melbourne Park, a feat made all the more impressive considering Rod Laver Arena has a seating capacity of 15,000, meaning more than double the crowd inside the arena was watching Novak Djokovic win his record 10th Australian Open from outside centre court.
In total, including during the week of qualifying matches, the 2023 Australian Open drew a crowd of 902,312. Over the two weeks of main draw play, 839,192 tennis fans turned out, beating the previous record of 812,174 who attended the tournament in 2020, just after COVID-19 was first identified in China.
These figures auger well for tournament director Craig Tiley’s stated aim last October to build towards a total attendance of one million, “cementing the AO as the biggest annual sporting event in the world in January”.
As part of the ultimate plan, nearly $1 billion was invested in the Melbourne Park precinct, with construction lasting more than a decade and wrapping up at the end of 2021. The precinct now boasts more than 30 courts, including five arenas – Rod Laver, Margaret Court, John Cain, Kia and 1573.
Significant improvements to public amenities in the precinct have not only opened the Grand Slam event to better public access, but business events venues, offering organisers a larger share of the visitation dollar, have also been developed in addition to the traditional private boxes.
A major addition for business events in CENTREPIECE, a purpose-built corporate event and conference venue. CENTREPIECE offers a 1,000-seat function room, pre-event spaces, interview rooms, an auditorium and broadcast studios. During January, there are also corporate marquees that pop-up around the precinct, while Melbourne Park’s permanent spaces are available to event organisers throughout the year.
Last year with crowds limited to 346,468 by COVID-19 restrictions, the Australian Open generated an economic benefit of $267.3 million and 213,274 bed nights.
Beyond the event attendees in 2022, another 4.26 million people watched Ash Barty win the women’s championship on Australian domestic television last year, which is part of Tennis Australia’s revenue stream of broadcast rights. International broadcasts of the event also put the Melbourne brand in front of millions more viewers offshore.
And while the Australian Open in Melbourne is the youngest Grand Slam on the circuit, which also includes the Roland Garros in Paris, Wimbledon in London and the US Open in New York, it draws the largest crowds and its prize purse of $76.5 million is second only to the US Open. Both men’s and women’s champions receive a cheque for over $2.97 million, with the runner up pocketing $1.62 million, although, of course, the Australian Tax Office also shares in the prize money.