NEW HAVEN \u2014 Will the city ever see high level professional tennis again? It\u2019s what many are asking as, at the end of this summer, the Connecticut Tennis Center won\u2019t be the court it once was, graced with international athletes and cheering fans. Further, as the Tennis Foundation of Connecticut looks to bring another tournament here, the question of how to help this massive stadium evolve remains at center court. The Tennis Foundation of Connecticut announced Feb. 1 that New Haven will no longer stage a WTA Premier tournament after the Connecticut Open sold its sanction on the WTA calendar, which New Haven enjoyed since 1998. Even before then, the future of the 13,000-seat Connecticut Tennis Center was in question. \u201cThis will be relatively unprecedented,\u201d former city Economic Development Administrator Matthew Nemerson said of the void the sale of the Connecticut Open has left in the city and state. \u201cThis is one of the largest stadiums in the world.\u201d The Connecticut Open was the third best attended women\u2019s-only WTA in 2018 that reportedly generated millions of dollars annually for the region\u2019s economy in addition to generating philanthropic support for local organizations. The foundation said it\u2019s exploring whether another professional tennis event can be drawn to the city, but the sale put the tennis center\u2019s future in doubt. The movers and shakers behind the tournament have long known is was as much of a summer celebration of food and fun as it was a sporting event. Tournament Director Anne Worcester pointed out in 2017 that \u201cthere\u2019s no carving out the competition from the festival. The competition is the core of what we do, but we have wrapped it with a week-long festival of activities.\u201d Unknown potential State Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said it\u2019s imperative to find another use for the center. Purchasing a smaller tournament would be a way to recoup part of the blow, but that would need to be supplemented, he said. \u201cIt\u2019s a national facility that\u2019s suitable for high-level tournaments, but I don\u2019t know what the market is,\u201d he said. \u201cIt would be premature whether we know what the options are...I would support any viable option to fill that vacuum and the state in supporting it, but a viable plan will have to be developed.\u201d Mayor Toni N. Harp, who sits on the board of the TFC, has also indicated the foundation may look to use the proceeds of the sanction sale to buy a smaller tournament. \u201cIt\u2019s first option is to try to replace the Connecticut Open with another tournament and preserve the presence of the tennis in New Haven,\u201d mayoral spokesman Laurence Grotheer said. \u201cThe city has been proud to host the tournament for decades. It was a highlight of the city\u2019s summertime special events calendar...It would be the city\u2019s preference for the Foundation to replace it with another tournament, but it has to wait and see what direction the Foundation goes,\u201d he said. Alder Anna Festa, D-10, noted there\u2019s already an often empty baseball field across from the Yale Bowl and the city doesn\u2019t need another empty sports complex. \u201cIt\u2019ll be sad to see if this stays empty as well considering its potential,\u201d she said. \u201cThere\u2019s a lot we can do, but it\u2019s a matter of welcoming those ideas. There\u2019s definite potential.\u201d Festa said people saw the end of the tennis tournament coming for years, but if Yale and residents were open about staging concerts or other sporting events there, the stadium could be put to use. \u201cIt would be nice for Yale to do something with it to promote the city,\u201d she said. \u201cWe have an empty baseball field, a football field that\u2019s underutilized and now we\u2019re going to have an empty tennis center. If Yale were to do something, it would be another way for Yale to support us and help the city.\u201d But state Sen. Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said the neither the city nor the state should be in the sports tournament business. \u201cGovernment doesn\u2019t belong in that business,\u201d he said. \u201cNew Haven and Connecticut have tight budgets. We should find a market and somebody that wants to run it, but we need to get out of that business and not subsidize a sports tournament.\u201d Fasano said the money to support the tournament came from taxpayer pockets, which should be going to social service, mental health, education, property taxes and the like. \u201cIt takes millions of dollars to run this and it doesn\u2019t seem to make economic sense,\u201d he said. Yale University President Peter Salovey could not be reached for comment. A match for the city The tournament notoriously struggled with securing a title sponsor for years, but with an injection of money from the state, it stayed afloat. Last year, the New Haven tournament received about $2.5 million from 75 sponsors, including Yale and Yale New Haven, the state of Connecticut and the city of New Haven. It produced $750,000 from ticket sales, including box seats, plus parking, food and beverage, merchandise sales, TV revenue. In 1989, tennis in New Haven had taken off when Volvo International tournament director Jim Westhall announced he was moving one of the most popular and heavily attended tournaments on the APT tour from Stratton Mountain, Vermont to the Elm City, saying \u201cWe\u2019re going to knock the sock off the tennis world.\u201d The following year, the Volvo International was staged at a temporary stadium at Yale as the Connecticut Tennis Center was built. Yale agreed to a 31-year lease to the Tennis Foundation of Connecticut so the stadium could be built and Connecticut paid almost $18 million to construct the 13,000-seat center at a time when tennis was growing rapidly in popularity. \u201cThey ended up building a tournament that was twice as big as anything outside of New York,\u201d Nemerson said. \u201cIn the early years, it was important defining New Haven as a place that was turning around. \u201cIt was a great marketing opportunity for Yale and other companies and it was a real opportunity for people to show off, even in the New York metro area because it was pretty amazing to have a facility like that,\u201d Nemerson said. \u201cIt redefined how people saw New Haven and brought a lot of people here.\u201d In August 1998, the tournament added the WTA and gained its title sponsor, Pilot Pen, but later that year, the men\u2019s tournament was sold to promoters in Austria, leaving New Haven with the Pilot Pen International women\u2019s event run by former WTA head Anne Worcester, who acted as the tournament\u2019s director until 2019. There were banner years that showed names draw crowds. Steffi Graf won the first women\u2019s championship in New Haven in 1998. Venus Williams and Lindsey Davenport were regulars. Monica Seles came a few times. Jennifer Capriati won a championship in 2003. Exhibitions the likes of featuring John McEnroe and Andy Roddick helped boost attendance. Attendance exceeded 100,000 for the men\u2019s and women\u2019s event in 2005, but has been in the 50,000 range in recent years. Then, in 2010, Pilot Pen ended its sponsorship, dropped the men\u2019s tournament and it was renamed the New Haven Open at Yale. Three years later, the tournament was about to be sold and moved to North Carolina when Connecticut purchased the event for $618,000, rebranding it as the Connecticut Open that operated as a not-for-profit organization. \u201cEven though people have been not as happy with not having big American stars, they recognized it was a top class sporting event,\u201d Nemerson said. \u201cWhen people would go, it gave them a sense of what\u2019s top notch.\u201d Tournament officials said the Connecticut Open generated $10 million in economic impact for New Haven and the state annually in addition to supporting the charitable fundraising. As recently as 2016, Mark Ojakian, now president of the Connecticut State Colleges and University system and a board member with the Tennis Foundation of Connecticut, but then Gov. Dannel P. Malloy\u2019s chief of staff and point man for keeping the tournament here, said \u201cFrom the state\u2019s perspective, we\u2019re very pleased with the direction the tournament is going.\u201d \u201cIt provides a great economic development opportunity and great visibility. We\u2019ve been strategic as a state in how we\u2019ve invested in the building to make long-term capital improvements that will cut down on operating costs. For the amount of money the state puts in, the value the state receives is incredible,\u201d Ojakian said. The office of Gov. Ned Lamont did not respond to several requests for comment. Locally, the city supported the tournament with fire and police service during the week of competition in addition to giving $100,000 from its annual budget, but it was more of a beneficiary of the tournament\u2019s high profile. \u201cThe city was really the beneficiary of a state effort to bring the tournament here and it\u2019s all been a positive thing, an additive thing,\u201d Nemerson said. However, Alder Abigail Roth, D-7, said the tournament \u201clikely was costing the city more than it was benefiting it economically.\u201d On top of the money the city gave directly to the tournament and indirectly through advertising by Market New Haven, the city was spending significant amounts annually on police overtime \u2014 $57,654 in 2018 \u2014 that the tournament never reimbursed the city for, she said. More than tennis As the capacity of the Connecticut Tennis Center Stadium is around 13,000, it is the third largest tennis venue in the U.S. and one of the largest in the world by capacity. But since 2004, the tournament supported year-round tennis education and mentoring programs in New Haven and beyond. TFC officials said at the time of the sale that New Haven Youth Tennis & Education will continue to provide programs for inner city youth at the Connecticut Tennis Center. The tournament was a successful fundraising vehicle. In 2018 alone, the Connecticut Open raised more than $20,000 for the Breast Center at Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale New Haven Hospital and partnered with Yale University to hold the annual Salovey-Swensen Extravaganza fundraiser that supports Yale\u2019s community-based activities and and has raised $19 million since 1998. It also drew people to New Haven to patronize hotels, restaurants, entertainment and shopping sectors, Nemerson said. Jim Westhall, who died in 2018, wrote in his book \u201cNonsense at the Net: a Rags to Riches to rags Story!\u201d that \u201cpro tennis events are not very good vehicles for making pure profit, although they do inject a lot of money, directly and indirectly, into the local economy.\u201d Westhall wrote that New Haven officials may not have realized how pro tennis works. \u201cIf I knew that making a profit was a critical component of their desire to host the tournament, I would have politely informed them that the chances of this happening were slim to none,\u201d he wrote. It seemed that being in the black financially for the tournament wasn\u2019t enough, because people weren\u2019t filling seats. In a stadium that holds 5,500 in its lower section alone, crowds eventually only filled a fraction of that space. Nemerson said something inevitable happened while New Haven was rebranding itself as a tennis destination \u2014 the US Open in New York got bigger and more attractive. \u201cThe corporate sponsorship and television attention grew so much,\u201d he said. \u201cWhile New Haven was establishing itself, New York just got bigger as a center of the metropolitan mind share. \u201cThere was a time people were happy coming to a smaller tournament but the US Open became more of a spectacle and people were intrigued to be at this spectacle of an event,\u201d he said. \u201cIn the early days people could get everything from the US Open at the New Haven tournament with less hassle. But now the idea of spectacle has changed.\u201d The CT Open isn\u2019t the first tournament to leave a massive spectator tennis stadium empty. The Crandon Park Tennis Center in Miami and Forest Hills Stadium in Queens, New York, both held world-class tennis tournaments at one time. Like Yale\u2019s tennis center, the future of Crandon Park is in question after the Miami Open tournament moved to the 14,000 seat Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. The tournament will open there for the first time this March and talks of demolishing Crandon Park or hosting college or high school tournaments there have circulated around Biscayne Bay, according to the Islander News. The Forest Hills Stadium was the original home of the US Open back in 1923. Through its storied legacy, the tournament hosted many tennis legends \u2014 Arthur Ashe, Billie Jean King, Rod Laver and Chris Evert \u2014 along with music legends who played concerts there beginning in the 1960s\u2014Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Barbra Streisand, according to the stadium\u2019s website. But the 14,000-seat horseshoe-shaped stadium, which stands today, hadn\u2019t seen a tennis match in decades after the US Open relocated in 1977 to Flushing Meadow, New York. Music events continued into the 1990s, but the cost of maintenance shuttered the stadium for nearly 20 years, according to the Forest Hills website. In 2013, Forest Hills reopened as a dedicated concert venue, with Mumford and Sons playing the inaugural show and in 2016 World Team Tennis announced the New York Empire would play its home matches at Forest Hills, according to CBS New York at the time. A concert venue? Worcester gained Board of Alders approval for a concert at the tennis stadium in 2017, but the plans fell through. The concert had been expected to star Aretha Franklin. The tennis center at Yale has a similar capacity as Forest Hills, which is now a concern venue but \u201cIt would be substantially smaller if it were retrofitted for a concert,\u201d said Keith Mahler, president of Premier Facilities LLC and facility manager for Center for Performing Art, which operates College Street Music Hall. \u201cThey\u2019d have to abandon tennis,\u201d he said of the New Haven facility. Bringing equipment in and out of the center would be too costly and not sustainable, he said. Mahler said he was interested in bringing a concert there years ago, but the tennis court made it unsustainable for the concert season. While Mahler said he didn\u2019t have enough information about the center now to know whether it could serve as a concert center, the geographic location could make it successful for the same reason the tennis tournament was\u2014access. \u201cIt\u2019s about as well-located an entertainment venue as there is,\u201d he said. The failed 2017 concert had been expected to attract between 5,000 to 8,000 attendants, TFC officials said at the time, with a stage on the east side of the stadium. The concert was to mark the venue\u2019s introduction as a multi-use, potentially year-round-use facility. \u201cFor years, everybody\u2019s been wondering why you can\u2019t use this beautiful facility more than just the summer for the tennis tournament,\u201d Worcester said at the time. Ojakian was appointed by the governor to keep the tournament here when it nearly left for North Carolina in the fall of 2013. \u201cI remember people referring to the stadium as a white elephant,\u201d Ojakian told the Register in 2017. \u201cThat was only used once a year and that was it. Part of the conversation of the state purchasing and investing in the tournament was to reduce annual overall operating expenses by making it what you see today. But to also make sure the conversation continued around other uses.\u201d While the possibility for repurposing the stadium as a concert venue remains, the TFC has indicated they are are still looking at bringing another tennis tournament to New Haven. \u201cAs we look to the future, we will remain actively involved in New Haven, leveraging our resources and strong partnerships with Yale University and Yale New Haven Health, to invest in valuable programs and events for the benefit of our State and local community,\u201d Tennis Foundation chairman Chris Shackelton has said. Shackelton couldn\u2019t be reached for further comment. Alders Darryl Brackeen, Jr., D-26, Tyisha Walker-Myers, D-23, and Adam Marchand, D-25, didn\u2019t return requests for comment. Reporter Chip Malafonte and columnist Jeff Jacobs contributed reporting to this story.