The Western & Southern Open Tennis Tournament

Founded in 1899 the Western & Southern Open has called Cincinnati home for over 124 years, with the last 44 years in Mason. The tournament is the oldest tennis event in the U.S. held in its place of origin and is the second largest summer tennis event in the U.S. after the U.S. Open.  It shares its status with the Miami Open, Indian Wells Open, Italian Open and Matura Madrid Open.  The men’s event is a Masters 1000 level tournament on the ATP Tour and the women’s event is a WTA 1000 level event on the WTA Tour. Rounding out the super nine top tier tournaments around the globe are the Canadian Open, Monte-Carlo Masters, Paris Masters and the Shanghai Masters.

Volunteerism and philanthropy are at the core of what has grown this tennis event to today’s world-class sporting event.  The inspiration began 40 years ago with a group of prominent Cincinnatians who formed Tennis for Charity (TFC), a non-profit organization, who devised a unique way to use the tournament to support their philanthropy including growing tennis in the region by helping inner city youth.

In 1979 a stadium designated specifically for the event found a home and forever changed the landscape along I-71 in Mason. In 2002, Mason’s relationship with Tennis for Charity grew as the City provided a financial commitment to retain and continue to grow the event. And it did.  In 2010, the new west building, the Paul Flory Player Center, opened and in 2011 and 2012 the tournament announced significant upgrades to the facility and grounds.  In 2011 the men’s and women’s tournaments combined into a 10-day event. Today the facility features a total of 17 courts, including four tennis stadiums – Center Court, Grandstand Court, Stadium 3, and Porsche Court 10 – and is among the few venues other than the Grand Slams with more than two permanent stadiums. This footprint provides 23 acres of space for players, media and fans, a ticket office, entry plaza, food court and exhibit areas for fans to enjoy a close-up experience with the top men and women tennis greats in the world.

To the region, the event boasts over $80 million in annual economic impact. For ten days out of the year the tournament elevates the State of Ohio, City of Mason and Warren County to an international stage helping further economic development initiatives and enhancing the quality of life for residents and businesses. 

Through proactive partnerships, the City has been able to maximize collaborative success at the Western & Southern Open each year and these numbers are enhanced through the growth and future of tennis in Mason. Some of these W&S Open highlights include:

  • 1 of 3 Master Level tennis events in the U.S.
  • 1 of the 9 most coveted tournaments in tennis outside of the four Grand Slam events.
  • 4th most watched sport in the world by number of fans.
  • Ohio is 1 of only 4 states to host a tennis event of this magnitude.
  • Established volunteer base with over 1,400 volunteers supporting the event.
  • Established fan base that is double the size of the Super Bowl.
  • Over 7,000 parking spaces on site or adjacent to the site offering easy access for visitors.
  • Over 35,000 hotel rooms within a 20-minute radius of the Linder Family Tennis Stadium.
  • 4 international airports provide easily available access to the event, including CVG, DAY, CMH and IND.
  • Broadcasted in over 192 global markets.
  • Over 126 million international viewers.
  • Visitors from over 50 states and 39 countries.

The City of Mason and the Mason Port Authority recently commissioned the University of Cincinnati’s Economic Center to conduct a future economic impact study of the tournament for the region. 

Expanding The Linder Family Tennis Center, extending the Western & Southern Open and activating the campus for year-round activity results in an estimated $207 million total economic output.

  • Supporting 600 jobs.
  • Earnings of over $54 million.
  • Expanding operations to include an additional 10 amateur tournaments and 10 concerts will generate $7.6 million in additional tax revenues.

Click here to read the University of Cincinnati’s Economic Center’s report.

In 2022, the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) announced Phase 1 approval of ‘OneVision’, a long-term Strategic Plan designed to transform the sport of tennis.  In development since 2020, the plan introduces a groundbreaking set of reforms to align interests between players and tournaments and reposition tennis within the increasingly competitive entertainment landscape. OneVision is made up of two independent phases. Phase I includes moving the Masters tournaments from an eight day, 56-player draw to 14 days with a 96-player draw event. 

Masters tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami already take place as 14-day events with larger draw sizes. Starting in 2023, the ATP Masters events in Madrid, Rome and Shanghai will move to 14 days and by 2025, the Canada and Mason events are required to become 14-day events.  The four Grand Slams are played over two weeks, or 15 days. 

With this move comes requirements for upgrading player space including courts, locker rooms, training areas and fan space including parking, food and beverage, restrooms, etc. 

The benefit of moving the Western Southern Open to a 14-day tournament includes increased viewership and economic impact including moving from an estimated current annual economic impact of $80 million to almost $200 million.

On August 11, 2022, South Carolina businessman Ben Navarro’s Beemok Capital purchased the sanction for the Western & Southern Open tennis event from the United States Tennis Association.  Navarro’s other business interests include Credit One Bank, the Las Vegas-based credit card issuer, and some of his holdings come under his Sherman Financial Group. Navarro and his companies have holdings in the commercial real estate, sports, entertainment, and travel industries.

Navarro’s philanthropic ventures are focused on education and mental wellness. In 2008, he founded Meeting Street Schools, a South Carolina-based network of one private and three public elementary and middle schools serving an entirely under-resourced demographic. In December 2020, Navarro announced the Meeting Street Scholarship Fund wherein he pledged to supplement the cost of higher education for any Charleston County high school students who also qualified for the Pell grant and the State’s LIFE scholarship, ensuring college opportunities for hundreds of South Carolina high school graduates each year.  In 2020, Navarro, in partnership with the Medical University of South Carolina, founded Modern Minds, a new type of mental wellness center that uses holistic health strategies to help adults living with anxiety or depression.

Beemok Capital provides oversight for the Navarro family’s operating businesses, philanthropic interests, and investments.

Beemok has indicated they are investing $5 million in improvements to the tournament in Mason this year.  Moving forward they have an established vision for major investments in the tournament to enhance the experience for players and fans and meet the ATP requirements for the tournament in 2025.  At a Special Council meeting held on June 5, 2023, Beemok publicly introduced their vision for the site in Mason.  That vision included expanding amenities, access, and shared facilities to engage the community year-round.

Click here to review Beemok’s vision and concepts.

Beemok is evaluating several options as part of a deliberate process relative to its future location.  Their process in other cities follows the same course taken in Greater Cincinnati, to both present the benefits of the tournament to the local community as well as evaluate the opportunities and constraints the region presents. Beemok has met with State, County and local representatives in Mason and the surrounding area to introduce their plans, requesting and receiving favorable financial commitments of a local contribution of $50 million towards their vision.

Upon learning of Beemok’s vision, needs and estimated costs for the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, the City readily responded “yes”, and formalized the response through a proposal that included The Grizzly Golf and Social Lodge and outlined the opportunities enhancing a partnership through sharing facilities and operations to minimize the duplication of efforts and reducing expense. 

Since the original proposal was presented, the City has worked to secure alignment from State and regional advocates and partners to retain tennis in Mason and secure Beemok’s request for 1/3 local funding ($50 million) towards their total estimated cost of the project. Since the City’s original proposal, Beemok has indicated that the cost of the project is now approaching $375 million as their plans are further refined. There continues to be significant discussions and activity regarding the future of tennis. The City, with business and State leaders, are engaging in supportive conversations. The City remains focused on demonstrating our commitment to partnering and advocating for the City’s fundamental interests balanced with maintaining tennis’ legacy. 

At a special City Council meeting held on June 5, the City and partners presented a strong proposition that aligns with Beemok’s vision for tennis in Mason. At the meeting, Council approved Ordinance 2023-51 affirming a $15 million contribution and a commitment to pursue economic development incentives and shared facilities that will advance recreational amenities and programming in Mason and throughout the region.  The City and Tennis for Charity, Inc. (TFC) have aligned property ownership to leverage and facilitate the City’s interest and Beemok Capital’s vision for the site as well as acknowledged the legacy of TFC’s philanthropic work for growing youth tennis in the region. Mason’s economic development strategies through the Mason Port Authority are intended to competitively enhance financial and partnership opportunities for Beemok Capital as part of this proposed development.

Click here to review Mason’s presentation from the June 5, 2023, Special Meeting of Council.

Review Ordinance 2023-51 here.

The effort to keep tennis in Mason remains a regional cast to secure the future of tennis and additional investment. Mason, Warren County, and the State of Ohio have a strong collaborative reputation for building public and private partnerships that together turn a strong business environment into an advanced ecosystem. We are committed to the success of our business partners leveraging a creative model to develop world-class amenities. Warren County and Mason’s economic development reputation is unmatched in the State and Region.  Operational and strategic growth with partners such as Beemok Capital is innate to our culture and receives our highest level of attention. We know what it takes to retain and recruit partners with the caliber and reputation of Beemok Capital Group, and we are not afraid to think boldly, creatively, and progressively to achieve success.

At a special City Council meeting held on June 5, Senator Steve Wilson reaffirmed the State’s commitment and indicated that if more is needed, Beemok could ask.  House Bill 33, the State of Ohio’s biennial operating budget includes a $22,500,000 appropriation to support the Western & Southern tennis tournament and facility in Fiscal Year 2024 (July 1, 2023-June 30, 2024). In addition, the budget bill creates a Strategic Community Investment Fund of $700,000,000 for catalytic capital project investments throughout the state.  The legislation was signed into law by Governor Mike DeWine on Monday, July 3. 

Warren County has provided a direct contribution of $5.5 million along with indirect contributions from sales tax exemption of an additional estimated $5 million.  The City reaffirmed its commitment for a direct contribution of $15 million, the implementation of the economic development incentives and financial obligations, aligning property ownership to leverage and facilitate the City’s interest and Beemok Capital’s vision for the site as well as acknowledge the legacy of TFC’s philanthropic work for growing youth tennis in the region and agreements necessary to allow for the development of shared facilities and operations within the sports and entertainment district and to advance recreational amenities and programming for the community and region.