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Wimbledon may be the jewel in the lawn tennis crown but it’s not the only entertainment option. If your budget doesn’t stretch to Centre Court, serve up another ace instead
With long hot summer days fast approaching, hospitality opportunities at high-profile sports events are as sought after as ever. Entertainment packages are rarely more coveted than those at Wimbledon, with spaces at tennis’s annual sell-out showcase notoriously difficult to secure. However, many buyers don’t realise that there are plenty of attractive alternatives on offer.
The Queen’s Club is offering its exclusive facilities to entertain corporate clients at The AEGON Championships (tel: 020 7386 3462) this year. The club’s intimate atmosphere and the superb skills of some of the finest men’s tennis players in the world combine to provide a great day out.
The Members’ Enclosure hosts private hospitality boxes for groups of 12 or more. Packages include Centre Court seats, access to the Members’ Clubhouse, a Pimm’s reception, four-course lunch and traditional afternoon tea. Meanwhile, the Presidents’ Room offers groups of 20 or 40 a hospitality area next to the Royal Box, plus reserved seats on a private balcony, Queen’s Club admission, complimentary drinks throughout the day, and an extra course at lunch.
The Stoke Park Club in Buckinghamshire provides a handsome setting for The Boodles Challenge (tel: 020 7384 4877). Taking place in June this year, in the week before Wimbledon, the tournament’s organisers allow only a limited number of visitors into the venue each day so it’s an intimate event, ensuring that each guest gets a close-up view of the action. Hospitality options range from casual picnicking to sky’s-the-limit luxury.
A Fortnum & Mason package supplies two attendees with a summer picnic and reserved grandstand seating for just £150. For something a little more upmarket, there’s a Players’ Enclosure package. As well as a Champagne reception in the Boodles Gallery, it includes a three-course lunch, player interviews, seats in a reserved box on the Championship court, complimentary drinks and a delicate afternoon tea. Prices start at £3,900 for at table of twelve.
Boodles’ Ultimate in Entertaining package might set you back a staggering £250,000, but it does allow 20 guests to arrive in a private helicopter, play tennis and dine with a former Wimbledon champion, meet all the stars in the Players’ Lounge and enjoy dinner in the Palladian mansion, before leaving in a chauffeur-driven Bentley with autographed memorabilia, £100,000 worth of jewellery and five pairs of Wimbledon finals tickets.
Taking place at the same time as Boodles, the Fortis Tennis Classic (tel: 020 8233 5854) happens in June at the exclusive Hurlingham Club in West London. Players such as Rafael Nadal, Lleyton Hewitt and Carlos Moya have played in the past, complementing some excellent hospitality packages starting at £269 per person or £3,228 for a table of 12.
The day includes a Champagne reception attended by the players, a three-course lunch with selected wines, reserved grandstand seating and afternoon tea. Coaching Clinic packages can also be arranged, allowing guests the opportunity to play with and learn from one of the pros.
Later in the year, look no further than the BlackRock Masters Tennis (tel: 020 8233 5854), which takes place in the fabulous setting of the Royal Albert Hall in December. As the season finale to the BlackRock Tour of Champions, this is a prestigious, star-studded tournament, regularly featuring players such as John McEnroe (four times winner), Goran Ivanisevic, Pat Cash and Henri Leconte.
The players genuinely relish the experience of playing at the historic venue, and the format of play is an enjoyable mix of competitive singles and entertaining doubles. Tennis aside, the event is famed for its festive atmosphere, and hospitality – available both in the afternoon and evening – is suitably lavish. With prices starting from £315, guests can enjoy a Champagne reception, private boxes and fine dining in the spectacular, birds-eye view Champions Club.
This article first appeared in Square Meal Venues & Events magazine, Spring 2008.