Elite pro tennis tourney picks Warren County over Charlotte for next 25 years

Western & Southern Open stays; state and Warren County to contribute $50 million each, Mason adds $30 million

Over the past several months, Warren County Commissioner David Young kept saying not to count out Mason in the competition to retain the elite Western & Southern Open pro tennis tournament.

The tournament was purchased by Beemok Capital last October, and the company set up a bidding competition between Greater Cincinnati and Charlotte in May.

On Tuesday, the tournament released a video featuring tennis legend Novak Djokovic, who won the men’s singles championship in 2023, and rising star Coco Gauff, the 2023 women’s singles champion, that gave the region a huge lift.

“Your wonderful tournament is staying in Cincinnati,” Djokovic said, adding he hopes to win a fourth Rookwood Trophy in 2024.

Gauff said, “It’s going to be bigger and better forever.”

According to the video posted to social media, more than $200 million in upgrades will be invested in the Mason tennis complex.

The Western and Southern Open tennis tournament will officially stay in Mason for at least another 25 years, according to an agreement approved by the Warren County Commission. 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, one step below the Grand Slam championships.

The tournament dates back to 1899 in Cincinnati and it’s been in Mason since 1979. It will celebrate its 125th anniversary in 2024.

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Young said the tournament will stay in Warren County, and a major reason is that the state of Ohio, Warren County and Mason were able to match the amount of funding — $130 million — that Charlotte, N.C. was asked to contribute if the tournament moved.

Young said the state and Warren County will be contributing $50 million each, while the city of Mason will contribute $30 million for the tournament. The agreement is for 25 years.

“It was a long, drawn-out competitive and emotionally draining process to keep this global asset here,” Young said. “We had a strong competitor in Charlotte, and we ended up matching Charlotte’s initial amount.”

Young said there were also a lot of factors in Mason’s favor, such as 200,000 fans and the excitement and energy they brought.

He said more than $260 million in renovations will be moving forward at the Lindner Family Tennis Center. The city of Mason, Mason Port Authority, Warren County Port Authority and Warren County signed a non-binding memorandum to support project development of a world-class tennis and other sports and entertainment facilities.

“This is more than a big deal,” Young said.

The vote on Warren County Commission was 2-1 with Young and Tom Grossmann in favor. County Commission President Shannon Jones said she wanted the tournament to stay in Warren County but felt the amount taxpayers will be contributing was too much.

“Historically, Warren County does not put money into private sector projects (other than tax abatements, etc.),” she said. “We participate in economic development activity. This was a very unusual request and this was far more than I was comfortable in using taxpayer dollars. I think the region and state will benefit more than Warren County will.”

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Beemok Capital was considering moving the tournament to Charlotte after acquiring the rights to it last year. According to Axios Charlotte, the city of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County committed a combined $95 million. The state budget included $20 million, for a total of only $115 million. Charlotte’s project was to build a new $400 million venue that would have hosted the tournament. The group was seeking public incentives to cover one-third of the complex’s construction cost, or about $130 million.

Navarro made the final decision to stay after a great 2023 tournament

Bob Moran, president of Beemok Sports and Entertainment, said last August’s tournament was key to the decision to stay in Mason. He said both communities put their best foot forward to host the tournament.

“We said if all things were equal, we’d prefer to stay if we got good support from the city, county and state,” Moran said. “In the end, (Beemok owner) Ben (Navarro) made the decision.

“What Ben saw at the tournament really moved him, especially by the commitment and passion of the community,” Moran said. “The tournament was key and he (Navarro) was overwhelmed by the crowds and talked to fans, volunteers and others. I think that’s what put him over the edge to stay.”

In 2025, when the tournament expands from one week to two weeks, Young said the event will provide a $150 million economic impact for the region and bring an estimated 400,000 visitors.

“This will not raise taxes, and there is no taxpayer risk,” Young said. “This will be a publicly owned facility with Beemok Sports covering 100% of the capital improvements and operating expenses.”

Mason Mayor Barbara Spaeth said the deal was an example of how the “collaborative spirit” in Ohio “provides the power” to get good things done for the city, county and state.

“We are beyond excited to know tennis fans from around the world will continue traveling to Mason each August for decades to come,” Spaeth said. “We look forward to working with Beemok’s leadership team as we transform the tennis center into one of the world’s premier sports facilities.”

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