Western and Southern Open primed for $150M expansion to stay in Cincinnati

The project would add year-round programming to the tournament site, including concerts.
Published: Apr. 28, 2023 at 3:46 AM EDT
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WARREN COUNTY, Ohio (WXIX) - The budget proposed by the Ohio House of Representatives this week contains $22.5 million for the Western and Southern Open, Greater Cincinnati’s world-renowned tennis tournament.

Ohio Rep. Adam Mathews (R-Lebanon) says the money will go toward a massive expansion of the Linder Family Tennis Center.

“We are looking at a $150 million expansion, the vast majority of that paid for by the new private owner,” Mathews said Thursday night.

The expansion would mark the event’s largest facilities investment since it moved to Mason 44 years ago.

The tournament draws 180,000 viewers every year from 50 states and more than 35 countries and is broadcast to more than 50 million viewers worldwide. It creates an estimated economic impact for the surrounding area of around $80 million.

Mathews says the state money, if included in the final budget signed by Gov. DeWine, would supplement investment from the tournament’s private ownership.

The tournament was purchased from the USTA in 2022 by a Charleston billionaire named Benjamin Navarro for around $250 million. Western and Southern Financial Group, headquartered in Cincinnati, will remain the title sponsor through the 2024 event. Nevertheless, the sale has given rise to concerns that the tournament could move away from Cincinnati.

Mathews says the private investment and planned expansion ensure that won’t happen.

“We’re going to do everything we can to make sure that it stays and that it expands and maintains it here in Warren County,” he said.

The money would be used to expand the tournament to two weeks and the draw to 96 players from 48. Just three of the other Masters 1000 tournaments around the world feature 96-player draws: Indian Wells, Miami and Madrid.

Mathews says the expansion would double the number of tennis courts and add pickleball as well as year-round programming, including concerts.

“When you come—if you’ve been to the Western and Southern before—a lot of it’s pop-up tents,” Mathews said. “We’ll have more semi-permanent structures there so it’s a great festival atmosphere.”

The tournament will begin construction on millions in upgrades after the tournament this year. The full expansion will be complete before the 2026 tournament, Mathews says.

Mathews claims the $22.5 million state contribution would pay for itself in the first year in added economic impact for the area’s hotels, restaurants and local businesses.

“This is something really special that puts Cincinnati, southwest Ohio up to the caliber that it should be,” he said.

Roger Federer, of Switzerland, bottom right, leaves a practice court as fans try for autographs...
Roger Federer, of Switzerland, bottom right, leaves a practice court as fans try for autographs at the Western & Southern Open tennis tournament, Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015, in Mason, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)(John Minchillo | AP)

The Western and Southern Open is the branded name of the Cincinnati Masters, a dual WTA/ATP tournament held in Mason every August.

The tournament started in 1899 at the Avondale Athletic Club on land that is now owned by Xavier University. It would change locations and court surfaces and at one point drop the women’s draw over the next century.

In 1979, the tournament moved to its current home in Warren County, where it became the only event outside the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open—the grand slams—to feature more than two stadium courts. It currently features four.

The men’s and women’s events were combined in 2011, and a major expansion began that would add six new courts, a new main entrance, a new entry plaza and retail space. A new five-story building was added to the southern side of Center Court in 2017.

The tournament is known for its intimate fan experience, with practice courts nudged together near the stadia and ample fan viewing space.

It’s one of nine ATP Masters 1000 tournaments on the men’s circuit and one of ten WTA Masters 1000 tournaments on the women’s circuit, each a step below the grand slams. Just four other Masters 1000 tournaments host men’s and women’s events concurrently.

The tournament attracts the top names in the sport, including past champions like John McEnroe, Boris Becker, Jimmy Connors, Stefan Edberg, Pete Sampras, Ivan Lendl, Andre Agassi, Patrick Rafter, Andy Roddick, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal.

Fan excitement figures to build for the swell of young talent comprising the next generation of top players who will play in Cincinnati: Carlos Alcaraz, Jannik Sinner, Daniel Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitispas and more.

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