Saturday, April 29, 2000

ATP tourney looks for new site

May need larger, covered stadium to keep major event

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Tourney director Paul Flory at the ATP Tennis Center in Mason.
| ZOOM |
        The head of the world-class professional tennis tournament that has been played in Mason for the past 21 years has talked to Northern Kentucky economic development officials about moving it to Kentucky.

        Paul Flory, tournament director for the Tennis Masters Series Cincinnati — formerly known as the Great American Insurance ATP Championship — said Friday he has talked to officials in Kentucky, Butler County and elsewhere in Greater Cincinnati about finding land for a new stadium.

        “This is not something that is going to happen tomorrow or anytime soon,” Mr. Flory said. “We're looking long term at where we want this tournament to be in 10, 20 or 30 years down the road. But everything at this point is very preliminary.”

Tennis center layout
        Mr. Flory said the tournament has a lease at the ATP Tennis Center, near Paramount's Kings Island in Warren County, until 2005. The land at the center is owned by Cincinnati businessman Carl Lindner, CEO of the Cincinnati Reds. This year's tournament is Aug. 7-13.

        Mr. Flory also said the tournament - a mandatory stop for players on the ATP professional tour — would like a new stadium with:

        • A retractable roof to provide shade for spectators and cover during bad weather.

        • Luxury boxes, which are being built in other sports stadiums, including some on the professional tennis tour.

        • A seating capacity of 13,000 to 14,000. The stadium in Mason seats 10,500.

        When asked about financial incentives from local or state governments, Mr. Flory said he would not rule out seeking that kind of help.

        Shirley Bonekemper, executive director of the Warren County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Friday she was surprised to hear that the tournament could be looking for a new home.

  Tourney's impact here:
  • $3 million: Prize money for the tournament.
  • 171,877: Attendance at last year's tournament.
  • $50 million: The estimated cost of a new stadium.
  • $20 million: The economic impact in Mason/Warren County of last year's tournament.
  • 2,800: Hotel rooms rented during last year's tournament.
  • 1.4 million: Hits the tournament websites received during the two weeks of last year's tournament.
  Source: Tournament officials, Enquirer clips
        “We'd certainly hate to lose something as prestigious as the tournament,” she said. “That would not be good for Warren County.”

        Mr. Flory would not say what sites he has looked at, other than the former Voice of America site in Butler County, just east of Interstate 75 in West Chester. That site may not be feasible because a community sports complex is planned there.

        Mr. Flory also did not divulge any details about discussions with officials from the Tri-County Economic Development Corp., Northern Kentucky's job and business recruitment agency. Dan Tobergte, a senior vice president with TRI-Ed, also refused to comment.

        Mr. Flory described Northern Kentucky as “an exciting and growing place,” with projects such as the $150 million Kentucky Speedway in Gallatin County and the $40 million Newport Aquarium.

        “That's an area that is really developing, and we're looking at the places where there is a lot of growth and development,” he said.

        Ms. Bonekemper pointed out that the tournament's existing location offers more than just a tennis stadium.

        Players and spectators typically also visit Kings Island, the Beach Waterpark and Jack Nicklaus Golf Center, all of which are close to the stadium.

        “It would be hard to rebuild the tournament's identity and those attractions elsewhere in the Tristate,” Ms. Bonekemper said.

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