Tennis Prose



The Vision For Miami Open

It’s no secret the transfer of the Miami Open from the island paradise of Crandon Park on Key Biscayne to the football stadium parking lot off route interstate 95 in 2019 was going to be a tough sell. The tournament owner and team invested $60m into the relocation which has received mixed reviews. Some people miss the beauty and atmosphere of the old location (1987-2018), some like the modernization and convenience and total contrast of the new site.

Tournament director James Blake, former no. 4 in the world, did an interview with’s Richard Pagliaro and shared the philosophy behind how the new Miami Open intends to capture the fancy and support of tennis fans.

“Obviously, you can’t recreate Crandon Park here or anywhere,” Blake told Pagliaro outside Hard Rock Stadium after Bibi Andreescu defeated Emma Raducanu in three sets. “However, you can also flip that around and argue the versatility makes it special… That you are trying to give fans more bang for the buck with all the entertainment value on site.”

Blake told Pagliaro the Miami Open has a new identity:  “When I first came on board I definitely wanted to make it more of an event. We’re always going to have the world’s best tennis, which is obviously our main focus and is always going to be here for the die-hard fans who want to see the best tennis in the world. But we’re also committed to creating an event around it as well. So yeah, here we have the ability to add all this unbelievable food, incredible beverages, all the activities to go along with it. And we just have the ability to expand. I love the fact that I can say ‘yes’ to a lot of player requests… You want extra goals in our soccer area? We can do that. You want expanded dining? I think our player dining area is the biggest on tour for the entire year.”

This year’s Miami Open will be without the star power of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams and Emma Raducanu lost first round. Blake is okay with that major impediment to a tennis tournament’s success. “We try to get the best players in the world and we get everyone who can come. As far as what we can control, we’ve added more activations on site so people have a lot of things to do in between the great matches they see. We’ve added a concert series with Kool & The Gang and Cimafunk on Friday and Saturday night so that’s exciting. We’ve got Stella Artois. We have unbelievable sponsors, especially on the beverage side: Stella Artois, Maestro Dobel Tequila, Santa Margherita wines. We’ve got some really, really good sponsors. The Miami Open continues to get bigger and better with no COVID restrictions we’re at full capacity and I love it. No, we can’t recreate Crandon Park, but I think what it showcases here is the versatility of this kind of venue. The fact you can have a Super Bowl here, a boxing match here, a Prince concert, Rolling Stones concert. A few years ago, we had a Rolling Stones concert shortly after the tennis event. It’s really incredible the vision that Stephen Ross had and what this entire team has been able to put together with the operations staff to make this possible.”

Blake says the new Miami Open is a success… “The players are thrilled. I know many of the players were skeptical the first year when they just saw the plans. Now, since they’ve been here I make sure to check with a lot of players: How do you like the tournament? How is everything going here? I haven’t heard a lot of complaints so I’m excited about the fact they feel that the tennis doesn’t take a back seat but it is also amplified by all the events around it.”

Notes: Why the Miami Open decided to relocate about 15 miles north up the highway from Key Biscayne to Miami Gardens…

The outdated but historic Crandon Park facility had been criticized as the slowest hard court on the tour, subjecting players to long, grinding rallies in extreme March heat humidity. The land on which the Crandon Park facility stands had been donated to Miami-Dade County by the Matheson family in 1992 under a stipulation that only one stadium could be built on it. Tournament organizers wanted to expand and grow the tournament and profits so they proposed a $50 million upgrade of Crandon Park that would have added several permanent stadiums, and the family responded with a lawsuit. In 2015, an appeals court ruled in the family’s favor, which disallowed any revisions and enhancements being made to the complex. The tournament decided not to pursue further legal action and instead started searching for new site options. In November of 2017, the Miami Open signed an agreement with Miami-Dade County to move the annual tournament from the tennis complex in Key Biscayne to Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida beginning in 2019. Roger Federer won the 2019 Miami Open vs John Isner and Ash Barty beat Karolina Pliskova in the 2019 women’s final. John Isner and Sloane Stephens were the last Miami Open champions at the Key Biscayne venue.

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