What's on your binge-list? The soaring success of this U.S. Open; Can the Bears effectively lobby for public aid?
A special hat tip to Sue Bird, the basketball legend who played in her final game in the WNBA on Tuesday as the Las Vegas Aces eliminated her Seattle Storm from the playoffs in game four of their semifinal series. At the end of the game, fans cheered and chanted, "Thank you, Sue." Sue Bird stood on the court and cried. After such a great career I'm anxious to see where the 41 year old Bird goes in the sports business as she has a tremendous amount to offer. Well done on a fantastic career.
And over the weekend, I caught Showtime's McEnroe documentary on John McEnroe and really enjoyed it. Found it pretty open and revealing. I need to watch the Hard Knocks finale tonight. What sports documentaries are you watching, and are you enjoying them? I've asked my colleagues for their opinions and would love to hear from you as well.
Well, this is your morning BuzzCast for Wednesday, September 7th. Good morning, I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening to the BuzzCast. We said yesterday, what a box office and pop culture hit the first week of the US Open was, and here is some proof. The Open attracted its highest ever audience through the tournament's first eight days. Nearly 550,000 fans have been on the grounds since the opener on August 29th. The previous record was 540,000 fans in 2019. On Saturday, over the Labor Day weekend, the US Open set its all time single day attendance record for the second day in a row. They had more than 72,000 fans on the grounds for the day and night session. Saturday had 42,000 during the day session, and almost 30,000 for the night session, and the differences between the day and night in terms of the vibe and the crowd is noticeable.
But again, that record on Saturday topped the previous record, which was set the day before on Friday. And you can just see the massive fans and attendees on the grounds at the Billy Jean King National Tennis Center. Yes, Serena's run helped. Great weather helped. Great buzz helped. But the event has just been marketed and sold very smartly. Of course, we'll see if they can continue the momentum in week two with a few stars now missing from the final rounds. In addition, ratings on ESPN have been tremendous. Of course, driven by Serena. Now her loss in the third round on Friday night delivered ESPN its best tennis telecast in the network's 43 year history. Yes, you heard that right. Its best tennis viewership in the network's 43 year history. The Williams match Friday night peaked at nearly 7 million viewers. ESPN's previous tennis record was under 4 million, 3.9 million, for a 2012 Wimbledon men's final between Federer and Andy Murray.
So this is just unbelievable data points. Serena is a ratings driver like very few others. And honestly we rarely see these type of viewership numbers around tennis. And through the first five days of the US Open, ESPN and ESPN2, the viewership is up 101% compared to the same time last year. And it's easily the best first five days of the event on record for the US Open on ESPN. So tennis really having a strong moment right now with the US Open.
Let's stay with tennis because this year's upcoming WTA finals, which is the tour's big season ending event, will be held in Fort Worth, Texas in late October to early November. That's under a one year deal and the move means the season ending event returns to the United States for the first time in 17 years. Last year's tournament was held in Mexico instead of China, because remember the WTA removed the Asian swing of its tournaments from its calendar during the COVID pandemic. The event was set to return to China for the long term, but the WTA has suspended tournaments in China due to concerns over the treatment of its WTA tour player Peng Shuai.
The WTA said it hopes to return to China in 2023, but they can't be sure. And all of this comes as, remember, Saudi Arabia has expressed interest in hosting the WTA finals as well. So WTA CEO, Steve Simon, has some really tough and big decisions to make in the future about where that tour will play their events. And the WTA's year end event, a very big revenue driver for the tour, goes to Texas this year, and that one year deal will be played in Fort Worth at Dickies Arena, which is a 14,000 seat, multipurpose venue that opened in 2019.
So let's move on from tennis. We talked about it a couple of times on the BuzzCast, but the Chicago Bears went public with their plans for developing more than 300 acres at Arlington Heights, which includes the construction of a dome stadium. Now these renderings looked great, but they were just that. They were renderings and concepts.
As we have said before on the BuzzCast, the Bears' plans here, they are ambitious. We're talking about a very massive mixed-use development and the Bears did ask for assistance, but not in building the stadium. They will instead seek state aid or public funding for other costs around the stadium. But they were very clear they were not looking for direct funding of stadium construction. Now the Bears' lease at Soldier Field runs through 2033, but the team can get out of its lease as soon as 2026. They would have to pay around $84 million to get out of the lease. Yes, many questions remain. These are just concepts. But the Bears did say that they are moving forward solely with the focus on developing a stadium at Arlington Heights and they are not considering any renovations to Soldier Field. So not surprisingly the Bears, and this is smart, touted this project as an economic driver for Illinois. Touting the jobs and the economic stimulus it will bring to the region. But I've said again, this move along with the team's search for a new CEO, the Bears are going to be in the news for some time and these are big stories you're going to want to keep your eye on.
Major League Baseball Players Association executive director, Tony Clark, will speak at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. to discuss the union's growing role in the labor movement. This comes a day after the union formally asked baseball for recognition as the collective bargaining representative of Minor League players. Now, we've read about this for the last week, baseball's players union looking to represent Minor Leaguers. And there are a lot of angles here to think about and I am certainly no legal expert, but many believe that the union representing Minor League players could be a very positive step to improve working conditions for players in the minors, to improve salaries, and like I said to improve the working conditions around playing the game.
Now we have seen some progress made by Major League Baseball, but more likely it could be done with more formal representation. But representing such a wide range of players that play in the Minor Leagues, from those surefire prospects with big bonuses, to other fringe, lower-tier players who probably will never get close to playing in Major League Baseball, will present a number of challenges. So let's see if Tony Clark talks about the union's plans today in his remarks at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., because this is another big story in the baseball world that people are talking about.
And finally we'll end around football because kickoff is tomorrow night for the regular season. Everyone is eager to see the NFL on Amazon Prime on Thursday nights this season. And while there'll be a number of new additions, some things will remain the same. Prime Video is bringing back it's Andrea Kremer/Hannah Storm alternate broadcast for Thursday night football. This debuted in 2018. And this of course was the NFL's first all-female commentary team. So Andrea Kremer, Hannah Storm will broadcast an alternate feed for two of Prime Video's Thursday night games.
They'll focus on storytelling and some live interviews during the game. So a different presentation. And remember, because Prime is doing the production, each alternate feed can be unique. Amazon Prime is already doing an alternate feed around Dude Perfect on the Thursday night games, and more are likely. So Andrea Kremer and Hannah Storm coming back to Prime Video for two Thursday night football games this season.
And finally, a stat to think about today, a record 18% of Americans say they expect to bet on an NFL game this season. That's up 3% from last year, and that's according to the results of a survey released today by the American Gaming Association. 49% plan to bet online, 23% will bet in person at a sports book, and 13% said they will use an illegal bookie. That 13%, that figure's down five points from 2020, and I'm sure the AGA likes to see that number continuing to go down. But a record 18% of Americans expect to bet on an NFL game this season. Are you one of them? Let me know and let me know what sports documentary you're currently watching and what you think about it.
So that is your Morning BuzzCast for Wednesday, September 7th. I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening. Stay healthy. Be good to each other. I'll speak to you tomorrow.