The Western & Southern Open could leave Cincinnati—or double in size

The tournament has been located in the Cincinnati area for 124 years. Local power players are putting up fight to keep it.
Published: May. 10, 2023 at 12:12 PM EDT
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WARREN COUNTY, Ohio (WXIX/WBTV) - The Western & Southern Open could be leaving its longtime home in Mason for Charlotte, North Carolina, according to FOX19 NOW’s Gray affiliate WBTV.

The Charlotte-based news station reported Wednesday there was a meeting held between developers, investors and the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County to discuss Project Breakpoint.

The project’s developers, Beemok Sports and Entertainment, hope to bring the Western & Southern Open to Charlotte as part of a proposed $400 million tennis complex, WBTV reports.

Beemok Sports bought the rights to the Western & Southern Open in 2022 for around $250 million.

A decision to uproot the tournament from its Mason home is not final yet. Western & Southern Financial Group Public Relations and Corporate Communications Vice President David Nevers said until a decision is made, they are “committed” to keeping the tournament in Mason.

“Since the tournament’s sale last year, we have made clear our interest in keeping the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, even as we recognized that the new owner would be evaluating multiple options,” Nevers said. “Until a decision is made, we remain committed to working with the Beemok team to fully explore a solution to expand and enhance the tournament, realize its full potential, and preserve it in its home of 124 years.”

A statement from Beemok Capital says they are “evaluating” their options regarding the future of the Western & Southern Open.

Some of Cincinnati’s biggest power players are uniting to keep the tournament: the lieutenant governor’s office, state legislators, Warren County officials, REDI Cincinnati, VisitCincy, the Warren County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and Tri-State business leaders.

A spokesperson for the City of Mason says keeping the tournament is “a top priority” for Mason and the region.

“Regional and Statewide strength and alignment allows us to be nimble making projects of this scale and magnitude happen,” the spokesperson said. “Working with Beemok challenged us to further up our game.”

Mason’s history of drawing and retaining multinational companies including Procter & Gamble and Makino is testament to the small suburban city that punches far above its weight.

“This opportunity is situated in the heart of the growing I-71 Innovation and Entertainment Corridor,” the city spokesperson said. “We admire Beemok’s vision and are optimistic that Mason is the right choice.”

The budget proposed last month by the Ohio House of Representatives contained $22.5 million for the Western & Southern Open.

Ohio Rep. Adam Mathews (R-Lebanon) previously said the money would go toward a massive expansion of the Linder Family Tennis Center, supplemented by $150 million from Beemok.

“There’s mockups in Charlotte, and we have very similar mock-ups here in Mason where they’ve done the renderings, they’ve done the work and they’ve brought in the architects, to double the number of tennis courts there at the Western & Southern,” Mathews said Wednesday.

The tournament would be expanded to two weeks and the draw to 96 players from 48. Just three of the other Masters 1,000 tournaments around the world feature 96-player draws: Indian Wells, Miami and Madrid.

“We believe this is something special that puts Ohio on the map,” Matthews said.

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

It would mark the event’s largest facilities investment since moving to Mason 44 years ago.

“We have always known that the Western & Southern Open is one of the premier tennis events in the world, and we in southwest Ohio know its value and importance. We have always known that other cities are interested in the tournament as well. The expansion and renovation of the tournament is needed to showcase our community and keep professional tennis in Ohio,” Mathews said.

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

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.

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.

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