A Day at the 2016 US Open With SPG — and Andy Roddick
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SPG Moments are one of the most unique aspects — and best parts — of the Starwood Preferred Guest program. The option to spend your Starpoints on amazing experiences instead of flights or free hotel nights is what helps to set the SPG program apart from its competitors. And one of the hottest tickets in the SPG Moments portfolio only comes around once a year — VIP access at the US Open.
Just for a little background, the SPG Moments program allows members to redeem Starpoints for a variety of special culinary, cultural, musical and sports-related experiences. Earlier this year, TPG Points & Miles Editor Sarah Silbert attended the BottleRock Festival in Napa as an SPG Moment — TPG also used an SPG Moments package to take his dad to a Knicks game with VIP access and to see Adele perform at The O2 Arena in London from the SPG Suite.
As a tennis fan, I was excited to attend the US Open and a special clinic with tennis superstar and former US Open champion (2003) Andy Roddick as a guest of Starwood, since unfortunately the package was already sold out. The US Open SPG Moments package included a one-hour tennis clinic and meet-and-greet with Andy Roddick, followed by full-day access to the SPG Luxury Suite for the finals of both men’s doubles and women’s singles for both the SPG member and a guest. The package is one of SPG’s most popular bidding events of the US Open — members spent an average of 171,000 Starpoints during the auction, or around $4,275 based on TPG’s most recent valuations.
The Tennis Clinic
We arrived at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center bright and early on Saturday — at 7:30am to be exact — to check in and get our wristbands for the day.
We entered through security on the West side of Arthur Ashe Stadium.
We then walked over as a group to the tennis courts, where a selection of breakfast foods and beverages — like orange juice, water and coffee — were waiting for us. Considering it was so early in the morning, it was nice to have the option to eat before taking the courts.
It was a really neat experience to be on such historic ground so early and to be able to actually play on a court in the complex — not many people get to say they’ve played tennis at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center. There were few people around, far from the large amount of attendees who would flood the grounds just hours later.
For those of us (like myself) who didn’t bring their own tennis racquets, SPG provided some for the 10 participants to use.
About 10 minutes after we got to the courts, Andy Roddick walked into the playing area — he had such a large presence. We watched as he laced up his American flag-themed tennis shoes before the 10 participants split into two groups of five and headed to the two designated courts to warm up.
Playing tennis alongside Andy Roddick was an experience like no other. Throughout the entire hour-long clinic, Andy was completely involved and invested in helping the participants better their game. Even though I’m a tennis novice, Andy was willing to give me some basic tips.
After about an hour of Andy switching between the two courts and playing with us, the clinic was over. Andy stuck around to take pictures and sign autographs for all the participants and their guests.
Participants were then given their tickets and escorted to the US Open locker rooms to shower and change before heading up to the SPG Suite.
It was nice to be able to shower if you wanted, especially considering this was one of the hottest days of the summer and it felt like it was at least 100 degrees in the latter part of the afternoon. Not only that, but being able to enter buildings on the grounds you would never be able to access otherwise was a very cool VIP-like experience.
The SPG Luxury Suite
After freshening up in the locker rooms, all the participants and their guests headed for the SPG Suite, which is located on the West side of the stadium on the Club Level. The first things you’ll see when you walk into the SPG Suite are a welcome desk and a purple wall featuring a bulletin with all the different SPG brands.
The Suite has a bar area, where wine and beer were served throughout the day.
When we first entered the Suite, there were some food and beverage options, like mimosas, bagels and iced water, set out for us. I tried one of the yogurt parfaits with fresh fruit and granola, and it was delicious — perfectly refreshing.
The Suite itself was extremely large and updated. Instead of the standard room like many of the others have, the location here is really two suites that have been combined into one, so there’s plenty of room to roam around the space and for it to not feel too cramped.
As always with suites at sporting events, the highlight is arguably the seating. Because we were able to enter so early, we were some of the first spectators in the whole stadium, which gave a new perspective to just how big the stadium is.
There was also plenty of seating outside. Not only were there 16 comfortable, padded seats, but there were also 10 tall bar-like seats as well as several white benches that lined the windows of the Suite. Even when almost everyone in the Suite was sitting outside, there still seemed to be enough room.
There were plenty of SPG goodies inside the Suite, too, like Westin-branded chapsticks…
…and #spglife signature purple tennis balls.
I have to say, one of the highlights of the Suite had to be the air conditioning. Although SPG’s Suite is located on the West side of the stadium, which is shaded, with the new roof on Arthur Ashe there’s very little air circulation, making it almost unbearably hot for everyone there — I can’t even imagine how hot it must have been on the court! — so it was nice to come back inside and feel a blast of cool air. Not to mention, the couch was a nice feature to help you relax a bit more.
The food options were pretty extensive and everything I tried was very good. We were offered everything from caesar salad to salmon to fresh tuna, plus a variety of sweets, like chocolate-covered Rice Krispies Treats with sprinkles and cookies.
There was a single bathroom in the Suite, which was nice and large and remained clean throughout the day.
In between the men’s doubles and women’s singles finals, Andy Roddick stopped by to say hello and answer questions. Throughout the day, SPG members who had purchased access to the Suite through a separate SPG Moment came for either match for the day (or both). I thought it was cool that even the people who hadn’t been there for the clinic that morning were still able to see and talk with Andy.
Throughout the entire day, the service in the Suite was what made the the experience all the more exclusive. Attendants came outside to the seats about every 10-15 minutes to see if anyone needed anything from the bar or if there was any trash that could be taken away. It was small things like this that made the SPG Suite above-and-beyond your typical US Open experience.
Seeing Angelique Kerber win the women’s title and jump up to her team was a surreal moment, and one I won’t forget, especially having seen it in person. It’s one thing to go to the US Open, but it’s another to have a day filled of tennis with the luxury of being in an SPG Suite.
I can see why this is one of SPG Moment’s most popular packages at the US Open. The entire day — from playing tennis with Andy Roddick to seeing Angelique Kerber win the women’s title from the comfort of the SPG Suite — was an amazing experience. For the die-hard tennis fan, there’s truly nothing better than a day at the US Open after a tennis clinic with Andy Roddick.
Ultimately, I had a great time at the event and really had no complaints about my experience. I’d absolutely consider purchasing this SPG Moment for next year’s US Open competition. The small touches from SPG throughout the day made it unforgettable — like leaving at the end of the last match with a hat signed by Andy Roddick.