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By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday, November 29, 2017

 
Miami Open Stadium

Miami Open owners signed paperwork to move the tournament from Key Biscayne to the Miami Dolphins' Hard Rock Stadium in 2019, the Miami Herald reports.

Photo credit: Miami Open Facebook

The sun will set on the Miami Open's 31-year run on Key Biscayne.

The Miami Open baseline will be moving near the Miami Dolphins goal line in 2019—if Miami-Dade commissioners approve the move.

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Tournament owner IMG has already filed paperwork with the Miami Mayor Carlos Gimenez's office to make 2018 the last year for the tournament at its current Crandon Park home, The Miami Herald's Douglas Hanks reports.

If the deal is approved, the tournament would remain on Key Biscayne in 2018 before moving to Miami Gardens in 2019.

Under the agreement, the tournament would gain a $1 million annual county subsidy that pays "the Miami Dolphins up to $5 million a year for major sporting events," the Miami Herald reports.

Tournament owner IMG has threatened to move the tournament from its Key Biscayne home after a series of attempts to upgrade the facilities at Crandon Park ran into legal road blocks.




Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross proposed partnering IMG to move the Masters event to a new $53 million tennis complex built next to the Dolphins Hard Rock Stadium home. The Williams sisters own a share of the Miami Dolphins.

A portable stadium court constructed inside the Hard Rock would host the tournament's marquee matches and be complemented by a permanent Grandstand court and permanent match and practice courts outside Hard Rock Stadium.

Once widely regarded as a jewel of Masters tournaments, Miami’s facilities have been outclassed by the BNP Paribas Open as billionaire Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison has invested millions of dollars upgrading Indian Wells, which many players regard as the unofficial fifth Grand Slam.

Miami Open organizers proposed a $50 million renovation, funded by IMG, that would expand the current stadium and build two new additional stadiums at the public park on Key Biscayne.

The tournament lost an appeals court decision in December of 2015 denying its challenge to expand its current home at Crandon Park.

The Matheson family donated the land for Crandon Park to Miami Dade County in 1940 and still retains approval rights over building projects on the public park.

One member of the family, Bruce Matheson, took the tournament to court to halt planned construction of a second stadium on the site and prevent proposed upgrades to the site.



Roger Federer, who defeated Rafael Nadal to win the 2017 Miami Open championship, has been playing on Key Biscayne since he won the 1998 Orange Bowl at Crandon Park.

Federer, a former IMG client, has mixed emotions about a proposed move from Key Biscayne.

“I mean, it depends on the importance of the growth of the site,” Federer said. “I know they can't grow, so traffic is rough. It's not getting easier. I don't think they can improve much in terms of capacity.

“So the question is, is everybody happy this way or not? If you want to go bigger, clearly you have to move. But is the grass always greener on the other side? I'm not sure. It's a hard one. I know this tournament from a long time ago here. I even played the juniors back here on this very court back in '98.

“So look, in a way you wish it goes on here. I think at this point everybody also understands if it were to move.”

The Miami Open has been staged on Key Biscayne since 1987.

The tournament will reportedly pay Miami-Dade County $1.3 million for leaving its lease, which runs through 2023, early. Additionally, the tournament has promised not to leave the county for 20 years, The Miami Herald reports citing a memo from Mayor Gimenez.

The Mayor's memo reportedly showed the county has lost money every year hosting the tournament with the Miami-Dade parks department requiring about $1 million a year for tournament-related costs. 

Life-long Florida resident Chrissie Evert told Tennis Now she would be disappointed if the Miami Open leaves Key Biscayne.

"I mean, Key Biscayne, it's just like paradise, I think, for the players," Evert said. "But when I do hear mumblings and rumblings a bit about the venue it's from the spectators...

"Getting there and the parking, it is a hassle. It isn't Indian Wells... it still has a lot of heart and a lot of history and it has a lot of fans. So I for one, am really disappointed if it would move or when it moves. I'm going to be sad about it."

 

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