MASON, Ohio — City leaders in Mason held an emergency session, setting aside $15 million to support a plan to improve the site of the Western and Southern Tennis Tournament after the new owner, Beemok Capital, announced a plan to move everything to Charlotte.
What You Need To Know
- Mason City Council approved $15 million to pay for renovations the new owner wants if W&S Open stays at its current location across from Kings Island
- New tournament owner Beemok Capital unveiled plans to move the tournament into a $400 million new facility it would build in Charlotte
- Lawmakers in Warren Co. and Columbus have pledged $35 million, which would go toward the $150 million Mason renovation budget proposed by Beemok Capital
Some fans of the world-class tournament are worried it’s already a done deal after Beemok officials unveiled a $400 million plan to build a brand new, year-round facility in Charlotte’s River District.
“If it’s a done deal, I don’t think so or they wouldn’t be here today,” said Mason councilwoman and former mayor Kathy Grossman, R-Mason. She was referring to Beemok representative Ford Perry, who joined the meeting via video.
Perry talked about a proposed $150 million renovation of the Mason facility, to make it a year-round venue for lots of things besides the yearly tennis tournament.
“It’s very doable,” Grossman said. “I love the concept of adding pickleball and community spaces and more shade. Beemok certainly has the capital and the resources to revitalize the campus.”
Beemok wants local leaders to kick in at least $50 million of those costs. With Mason city officials approving $15 million, along with Warren Co. and state lawmakers having already promised another $35 million, that would satisfy the $50 million request from Beemok.
Grossman believes there are definite advantages to staying in Mason.
“They have obstacles to overcome in Charlotte,” she said. “Don’t estimate how hard that can be.”
In the council meeting, Grossman referred to the battle with Charlotte as similar to the Biblical story of “David and Goliath.” She believes that just like in that story, the underdog will win.
“All these years of preparation have gotten us to this moment and you won’t find a heart in Charlotte like you will here,” Grossman said.
While the meeting was mostly attended by government officials and promoters of projects around the region, a few fans of the tournament showed up, like Anne Blaisdell, who has volunteered at the Western & Southern for 15 years and attended as a fan for decades before that.
“I was very impressed at all levels, the state, county, city,” she said.
But Blaisdell thinks that the new out-of-town owners aren’t as impressed by the tournament’s 120-plus year history and nostalgia that is a popular refrain from its supporters.
“They talked a lot about the history and I’m not sure that’s as important to Beemok about what it can be in the future,” she said.
Blaisdell and leaders in Mason and across the region hope the tournament’s future is in Mason.
“It’s always a feeling of unity and happiness,” Blaisdell said. “Everyone is just having a really good time.”
This year’s tournament will proceed in Mason this August. Beemok Capital representatives said they will announce their final decision sometime over the next several months.