Cincinnati Open new home may be North Carolina



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Charlotte new tennis stadium Beemok Capital Image: City of Mason

The Charlotte City Council unanimously approved $65 million toward a proposed $400 million, 53-acre tennis campus in North Carolina (US) that could be the new home of the Western & Southern Open, which is currently held in Mason, Ohio.

‘Dayton Daily News’ stated that according to the multiple Charlotte area media reports, the Charleston, South Carolina-based financial services company – the Beemok Capital Group – has proposed a new tennis campus with four stadiums and 40 courts for tennis and pickleball in the proposed mixed-use development called the River District.

The Cincinnati Masters or Cincinnati Open (branded as the Western & Southern Open for sponsorship reasons) is an annual outdoor hardcourt tennis event held in Mason, Ohio, near Cincinnati (US). The event started on September 18th, 1899, and is the oldest tennis tournament in the United States played in its original City. The tournament is the second largest Summer tennis event in the United States after the US Open.

The US Open Tennis Championships, commonly called the US Open, is a hardcourt tennis tournament held annually in Queens, New York. Since 1987, the US Open has been chronologically the fourth and final Grand Slam tournament of the year, except for 2020.

The Charlotte City Council is the legislative body of the City of Charlotte and forms part of a Council-Manager system of Government. The Council is made up of 11 members and the Mayor, all elected to two-year terms in odd-numbered years.

‘Dayton Daily News’ further stated that the company, owned by billionaire Ben Navarro, purchased the tournament rights for the Western & Southern Open for $300 million from the U.S. Tennis Association, according to media reports. Beemok Capital said it was seeking one-third of the project costs from public funding sources -about $130 million.

New York (US)-based the United States Tennis Association is the national governing body for tennis in the United States. A not-for-profit organization with more than 700,000 members, it invests 100 percent of its proceeds to promote and develop the growth of tennis, from the grassroots to the professional levels.

The City Council also authorized the start of negotiations to move the tournament with Beemok Capital, according to news reports. The company is seeking the Masters 1000 tennis tournament, the professional tennis tier under the Grand Slam series. If the public funding is allocated, the Western & Southern Open could begin play in Charlotte in 2026.

ATP Masters 1000, which debuted as a series in 1990, features the best men’s tennis players at nine top tournaments on the ATP Tour calendar. Champions at Masters 1000 events earn 1,000 Pepperstone ATP Rankings points.

London (UK)-based the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) is the governing body of the men’s professional tennis circuits – the ATP Tour, the ATP Challenger Tour and the ATP Champions Tour.

The tournament is scheduled to become a two-week men’s and women’s event in 2025.

The Western & Southern Open began in 1899 as the Cincinnati Open and is the oldest pro tennis tournament still being played in its original City. It is being played in Mason at the Lindner Family Tennis Center since 1979. The one-week tournament has an $80 million economic impact in the Warren County and in 2025, when the tournament expands to two weeks, the economic impact to the Warren County is projected to increase to $200 million, according to county officials.

Recently, the State of Ohio announced that it was creating a $1 billion super-capital improvement fund for special economic development projects in the next biennium budget along with an earmark of $22.5 million from the Ohio House of Representatives budget proposal toward keeping the tournament in Mason. Both items are in the State budget being completed, according to officials.

Also kicking in funding to renovate the facility and retain the tournament in Mason are Warren County with $10.5 million and the City of Mason with $15 million.

“Officially the match is underway,” said the Warren County Commissioner David Young, adding that he was “not surprised” that the Charlotte Council set aside the funding to snag the tournament to North Carolina. He also said the one-week tournament for 2023 in Mason is already sold out two months early.

Young said Navarro and his company “know what’s here and know what he has here can only get better… We want to be his best option.”

However, while Young conceded the county is in danger of losing the tournament and that the new owner will make the choice, he also thinks “it’s a jump ball situation”. Young said he likes Warren County’s position because the tournament is well-established in the community and has more than 500 volunteers who help out each year – “We knew this would be a competitive situation. But the Warren County and Mason already compete on a global scale bringing in new companies.”

Phil Smith, President and head honcho of the Warren County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the issue is personal to him as he worked seven years as a consultant for the Western & Southern Open and worked 15 years full-time on the tournament’s staff and eventually becoming the Chief Marketing and Communications Director for the tournament. He has been a volunteer at the tournament for four decades.

The Warren County Convention & Visitors Bureau is the destination marketing organization responsible for promoting tourism in Warren County, Ohio. With attractions such as Kings Island, Great Wolf Lodge, Ozone Zipline Adventures, Caesar Creek State Park and Valley Vineyards, as well as events such as the Western & Southern Open, the Ohio Renaissance Festival, and Ohio Sauerkraut Festival, the area is known as ‘Ohio’s Largest Playground’. Tourism is the largest industry in the county, with 11.8 million yearly visitors, an economic impact of $1.168 billion and 12,244 tourism-related jobs.

Added Smith, “The effort to keep the tournament in its Cincinnati home, where it’s been for 125 years, has the united support of leaders from the State of Ohio, Warren County, the City of Mason, the City of Cincinnati, and other regional entities. This united effort will produce a $50 million retention commitment, which is one-third of a proposed $150 million reconstruction project to enhance the current facility. That was the request from Beemok, and we’re working to meet that request.”

But in addition to that commitment, Smith said there are other funds available for this project as well, as was discussed with a Beemok official at a recent Mason City Council meeting.

Concluded Smith, “It isn’t a question of whether the region feels it can compete with another City to retain the tournament: We can. Everything Beemok wants to accomplish with this tournament – an enhanced campus, a world-class tennis experience and an expanded slate of activities and events beyond the week or weeks of the tournament – can be done right here, and at the highest level. We’re ready and able to partner with Beemok to make it happen and keep the tournament right here.”

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