Thursday, August 05, 1999

ATP turns Mason into a mecca


Tennis fans to fill hotels, attractions

BY KEVIN ALDRIDGE
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MASON — History records that a century ago, fans were climbing trees at Cincinnati's Avondale Athletic Club to catch a glimpse of action at the Tri-State Tennis Tournament.

        “It was an event that was very highly attended,” ATP communications director Phillip Smith said of the tournament that was an early incarnation of the ATP. “People and players came from all over the country to watch and play there. It was a big thing.”

FACTS & FIGURES
  • ATP visitors will help pump $20 million into the local economy.
  • The tournament has a total purse of $2.45 million.
  • Since 1974, Children's Hospital Medical Center has received more than $4 million from the tournament, including a record $309,500 in 1998.
  • The Cincinnati Recreation Commission has received $179,633 in the past eight years.
  • In 1998, the tournament raised $29,500 to benefit the Cincinnati chapter of the National Junior Tennis League, a program established to teach tennis to youngsters who normally could not afford to learn.
  • Tournament officials have prepared press passes for 350 members of the media.
        Some things haven't changed in 100 years.

        Thanks to the award-winning ATP Tennis Center in Mason, which seats more than 20,000, fans at this year's Great American Insurance ATP Championship won't have to go out on a limb to watch the world's tennis elite in action.

        However, the ATP tournament is still one of the hottest tickets around — and its impact on the Tristate keeps growing. This year's event is expected to draw more than 166,000 people — many from outside the area, including spectators from as far away as France and Chile.

        The visitors will help pump $20 million into the local economy as they take breaks from tennis to visit other Tristate attractions and restaurants and stay in area hotels during the tournament's 11-day run.

        Tournament officials report that sales of tickets, which range from $7 to $36, are through the roof. Tickets for the ATP championship match Aug. 15 already are sold out.

        The $2.45 million tournament begins today with the ATP Seniors competition and ends Aug. 15 when the top two players face off. The three-day seniors tournament will feature the tournament's first women players since 1988.

        “The ATP is definitely one of the biggest events in terms of drawing tourists and augmenting the image of this city,” said Joan Kaup, vice president of Tourism for the Greater Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau. “The truly wonderful thing about the ATP is that because it is 11 days long it affords visitors an opportunity to enjoy some of the other attractions Greater Cincinnati has to offer.”

        Nearly 40 percent of the fans who attended the ATP last year came from outside Greater Cincinnati, according to tournament officials. Mrs. Kaup said tourists stay in hotels two or three nights and check out other area attractions such as the Cincinnati Zoo, The Beach and Paramount's Kings Island.

        “It's like a mecca to Mason about this time every year,” said Melissa Koehler, Mason's economic development coordinator. “When the ATP is here, it is the talk of the town.”

        Especially among business owners who benefit from the tournament's presence.

        The 302-room Cincinnati Marriott Northeast, on Mason-Montgomery Road in Mason, is sold out through Aug. 16. Many of the rooms are reserved for the tournament's 56 top-ranked tennis players. Other Mason hotels are filling up quickly.

        Visitors from 42 states are expected to descend on the Tristate for the tournament. And while some began arriving Wednesday, hotel officials said the bulk of fans aren't expected until this weekend.

        “You can't get a hotel room in Mason this time of year,” said Mr. Smith.

        Since the tournament moved to Mason 20 years ago from Cincinnati, it has helped propel development while attracting a string of new hotels, restaurants and retail shops. And the ATP has also had a significant impact on local charities. Since 1974, Children's Hospital Medical Center has received more than $4 million from the tournament, including a record $309,500 last year.

        The Cincinnati Recreation Commission also has benefited, receiving $179,633 from the tournament in the past eight years. Mr. Smith said last year the tournament raised $29,500 to benefit the Cincinnati chapter of the National Junior Tennis League, a program established to teach tennis to youngsters who otherwise could not afford to learn.

        Tournament officials have prepared press passes for 350 members of the media, many from outside the United States. Mr. Smith said media officials from France, Brazil, England and Chile are all staffing the tournament.

        Mason City Manager Scot Lahrmer said such worldwide media attention is a big plus for Ohio's second-fastest growing city.

        “Having the ATP in Mason puts an additional spotlight on our community,” Mr. Lahrmer said. “The fact that the tournament has an international flavor to it is significant to this city from an economic standpoint.

        “It allows us an opportunity to showcase the city to a larger audience. Plus, the number of people the tournament draws increases business for some of our local companies.”

Women's debut spices up ATP seniors draw tonight
Where to see a tennis star



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