August 22, 2019 / 7:18 PM / 25 days ago

USTA under-reported millions, owes back rent: NYC comptroller

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York City Comptroller said on Thursday that the United States Tennis Association (USTA) had under-reported millions in gross revenue, days before the start of the U.S. Open, the organisation’s marquee event and final Grand Slam of the year.

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer speaks during a news conference outside the USTA National Tennis Center at Flushing Meadows Corona Park in the Queens borough of New York, U.S., August 22, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

The USTA’s National Tennis Center owes the city more than $300,000 in rent after it “under-reported at least $31 million in revenue between 2014 and 2017”, the comptroller’s office said.

The audit reflects signs of strain between the tournament and its host city, a partnership that goes back several decades, from the high-end neighbourhood of Forest Hills to its modern, state-of-the-art venue in Flushing.

Under the terms of its lease with the city, according to the comptroller, the USTA pays the city “one percent of its net gross revenues in excess of $20 million”, on top of a $400,000 yearly base rent.

“New Yorkers love the U.S. Open but we also expect a fair deal from a company that’s making hundreds of millions of dollars,” Comptroller Scott Stringer told Reuters.

The USTA did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The comptroller’s audit showed the National Tennis Center reported gross revenues of approximately $308 million in 2016 and $349 million in 2017.

The comptroller’s office also took issue with the terms of the USTA lease agreement.

“Within the lease that was assigned many years ago, they make it almost impossible for an audit to be conducted,” Stringer said. “Every aspect of the audit had to be done using pen and paper.”

The USTA National Tennis Center each year hosts the U.S. Open, America’s premier tennis event, which attracts the sport’s biggest names and commands eye-popping ticket fees on the second-hand market.

Tickets to courtside seats for this year’s men’s final are being offered for upward of $8,000 each on resale site StubHub.

Last year, the tournament celebrated its 50th anniversary with a $600 million renovation to its grounds, the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. [nL3N1VG085]

The first round of the U.S. Open begins on Monday.

Reporting by Amy Tennery, editing by Ed Osmond

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