By Peter Schwartz
» More Columns
Fans who are lucky enough to get their hands on US Open tickets already have the privilege of seeing the best tennis players in the world over the course of two weeks at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. But this year, fans that make their way onto the grounds in Flushing Meadows will have the added treat of some exciting interactive experiences along with a look at a slice of tennis history.
The US Open American Express Fan Experience is a 20,000-square-foot interactive area located in the south plaza right next to Louis Armstrong Stadium and the old Grandstand. With spectacular amenities, digital content and meet-and-greets with current and former players, it's an experience second to none for tennis fans.
"We are always excited to bring our card members and tennis fans new, exciting and interactive experiences during the US Open," said Deborah Curtis, vice president of global sponsorships and experiential marketing for American Express.
The exhibit affords fans to take a seat in the Chair of Champions, a glass-enclosed area that provides a great photo opportunity while sitting in a throne made up of tennis balls and rackets. There is also the Fan Court, a full-sized tennis court with tools that will give fans of all ages the ability to enhance and improve their game.
PHOTOS: US Open Day 2
Tennis fans who like history and memorabilia will also enjoy displays that include the US Open men's and women's singles trophies as well as an exhibit from the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
"From providing premium amenities and offerings, to exclusive digital content, to allowing attendees on site to experience the never-before-seen Pro Walk, we are again delivering unique service and access to our card members and fans," Curtis said.
The marquee feature of the experience is the Pro Walk, as fans get to virtually experience the journey that a player makes from the locker room to stepping onto center court at Arthur Ashe Stadium in front over 20,000 fans.
With a combination of player locker room and tunnel replicas and holograms of five-time US Open men's champion Pete Sampras and two-time women's champion Monica Seles, fans will feel like they're on center court with three-dimensional sound and projection mapping of the stadium.
"The actual virtual reality is something that I was pretty excited to be a part of," said Sampras who, along with Seles, Venus Williams and up-and-coming American player Taylor Fritz, is partnering with American Express on the experience.
"I think the Pro Walk is just an amazing innovative idea for fans to experience," Seles said. "That feeling of how it is to walk down the hall before a match -- your nerves are flowing. But yet when you step on that center court, the excitement and the fans of New York City welcoming you -- there's just no other feeling."
What the fans will really get a good sense of is exactly what is going through a player's mind just before a match at the US Open.
American Express, an official sponsor of the tournament as well as other sports properties such as the NBA, Brooklyn Nets, Golden State Warriors and Seattle Seahawks, is giving US Open ticketholders a one-of-a-kind experience that really brings them inside the sport.
Sure, the exclusive American Express cardmember club with cellphone charging, beauty sampling bar and sunglass cleaning is a nice amenity, but how many times can you say you've experience what it's like to be a player at the US Open?
"I think the fans will enjoy the Pro Walk experience," Sampras said. "They get a sense of what I'm saying and my emotions walking onto the court, being in the tunnel and just hearing my words."
Whether it's the NFL Experience at the Super Bowl, the MLB All-Star Fan Fest or even the fan fests as the NHL and NBA All-Star games, when a fan gets that rare opportunity to taste what it's like to be a pro, it creates memories that will last a lifetime.
For those attending this year's US Open, the experience provided by American Express, especially the Pro Walk, is about as unique as there is in sports for fans of all ages.
As the saying goes, "membership has its privileges."
Don't forget to follow Peter on Twitter @pschwartzcbsfan. You can also follow @usopen and @AmericanExpress.
for more features.