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Mason offers $15 million to retain Western & Southern Tennis Open

Western Southern Open 2022
Posted at 11:07 AM, Jun 05, 2023

MASON, Ohio — Mason City Council today approved a $15 million incentive to help fund a $150 million expansion of the Lindner Family Tennis Center. But it could be months before the city knows whether its approach will retain the Western & Southern Open tennis tournament long term.

The Mason incentives are intended to join a $25 million commitment from the state of Ohio and $10.5 million from Warren County to convince Beemok Capital Group not to move the ATP Masters 1000 and WTA 1000 event to Charlotte.

Beemok is the Charleston, South Carolina-based company that purchased the tournament last August. In May, it proposed a $400 million development in Charlotte's River District that could host the starting in 2026.

Charlotte’s city council is expected to vote this month on tax incentives worth up to $70 million for Beemok. County and state officials are also mulling investments in the project in North Carolina.

Mason’s $15 million incentive would enable the tournament to expand to a two-week format in 2025. But Beemok says it would invest an additional $225 million in Mason if it keeps the tourney in Ohio.

In a presentation via Zoom to Mason City Council, Beemok Chief Operating Officer Ford Perry said the additional investments would include a pickleball complex and other improvements to add concerts and other tennis tournaments to the schedule.

"They've had really positive conversations with our staff," Mason Mayor Barbara Spaeth said. "I don’t think they’d be going through all this, trying to come up with plans and that kind of thing if they weren’t seriously considering it."

State Senator Steve Wilson drew applause from a crowd of local business leaders when he told Mason City Council that the Ohio Senate's proposed budget would call for the creation of a billion-dollar capital fund that could fund future investments in Mason.

"I think it’s always positive when you see a variety of levels of government plus the business community come together," said Kimm Lauterbach, CEO of REDI Cincinnati, a regional economic development agency. "We think we have a really compelling story and we’re hopeful that it’s sufficient."

But a national site-search consultant John Boyd said Mason is a long shot to retain the Western & Southern Open, based on Beemok Capital's business ties to Charlotte.

"Bank of America is taking a pro-active role to help bring this tournament to Charlotte," Boyd said. "You’re seeing highly influential public affairs consultants working behind the scenes to get this deal done. They recently hosted (Beemok founder) Ben Navarro's team at the Wells Fargo Tournament, where his people are getting a familiarization with civic leaders and business leaders, other influential people."

"Based upon everything I’m seeing, it looks to me like this will be relocated to Charlotte," Boyd said.

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