Warren County ‘staying in the game’ to keep pro tennis event, ‘but at what cost?’

Mason tournament is one of best in the world, but new owner is considering move to Charlotte

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Warren County commissioners Tuesday reaffirmed they are “staying in the game” with their efforts to keep the Western & Southern Open in southwest Ohio, where the pro tennis tournament has been held for more than a century.

The tournament is one of the 15 most prestigious tennis tournaments in the world, with other events at that level hosted in cities like Shanghai, Paris, Rome and Madrid.

The new owner, Beemok Capital, said $150 million in improvements is needed to keep the Lindner Family Tennis Center viable, and that at least a third of the costs should come from public sources, as well as making it a two-week event. So far, the state of Ohio has anted up $22.5 million; the county has pledged $10.5 million; and Mason has pledged $15 million.

The new tournament owner is interested in moving the international tournament to Charlotte, N.C. and is proposing the construction of a state-of-the-art, $400 million tennis campus with four stadiums. Again, Beemok Capital Group is seeking one-third of the costs from public sources. The city of Charlotte has approved $65 million; and the Mecklenburg County commissioners recently approved up to $30 million for the project. About $35 million is being sought from the state of North Carolina to cover the public funding for the project that could begin operations in 2026 as a two-week event.

Warren County Commissioner David Young asked his colleagues whether they wanted to keep the tournament in Mason, and Young asked to be designated as their point person in future negotiations with the new tournament owner.

Credit: Jeff Dean

Credit: Jeff Dean

Commissioner Tom Grossmann, a former Mason mayor, said the county “should do what we can within reason” to keep the tennis tournament in the area.

“It’s in the county’s best interest to keep the tournament,” said Commission President Shannon Jones. “But at what cost are we willing to keep it?”

Mason officials said the tournament brings an economic development impact of $80 million a year, and that is projected to increase to $207.2 million in 2025 when the tournament expands to two weeks.

About 200,000 fans are expected to descend upon Mason this August for the tournament that is scheduled Aug. 11-21.

City, business, regional and state officials have been working on the package for several months since September when the tournament was sold by the U.S. Tennis Association to billionaire businessman Ben Navarro of South Carolina.

Last month, Navarro, owner of investment company Beemok Capital Group, pitched a proposal to leaders in the Charlotte area to move it there, according to The Charlotte Observer.

The proposed new campus in Charlotte is envisioned to have 40 tennis courts, including four stadiums, five additional match courts, and a mix of hard, clay and indoor tennis and pickleball courts to be used year-round near the Catawba River.

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