One measure on the November ballot — a proposal to improve Crandon Park at no new cost to taxpayers and extend the Sony Open tennis tournament’s future in Miami — should spur little debate.
Each year, the Sony Open brings hundreds of millions of dollars into our community, fills our hotels with visitors from around the world, brings customers to restaurants and shops and broadcasts Greater Miami’s image across the globe. The tournament is the largest recurring sports event to take place in Miami annually.
Just as the Sony Open has grown to become a Miami institution and an international draw, cities around the world are investing billions in tennis facilities. Meanwhile, the last major improvements to Crandon Park Tennis Center took place almost 20 years ago.
Planned updates include the addition of green spaces, shaded areas, landscaping with plants and trees native to Key Biscayne, and show courts with comfortable seating. Most important, these improvements will be funded entirely with tournament-generated revenues and cost savings, without a single penny of public money.
A recent study by the Sports Management Research Institute found that the 2012 tournament drew a total of more than 325,000 attendees over its course; resulted in the direct booking of 15,000 hotel room nights; and generated an overall economic impact of more than $386 million. Hotel occupancy rates in Miami-Dade were up almost 5 percent during the tournament, and average daily rates for hotel rooms rose by more than 15 percent over 2011. Nearly nine out of 10 Sony Open attendees indicated they would visit Miami again in the next two years.
The upgrades being proposed by IMG are a win-win for the Sony Open and Miami-Dade County, making the updated facilities available to the public during the 50 weeks each year when the Tournament is not in progress.
While these park enhancements will come at no added cost to the public, Miami-Dade voters will decide whether to allow the upgrades and extend the Tournament’s life in Miami. The county’s charter requires that two-thirds of voters approve any improvements made at Crandon Park and the extension of the tournament’s lease.
Two-thirds voter approval is a high threshold to achieve, but Miami-Dade residents have the final say in determining whether the Tournament will remain in Miami for decades to come. It’s that simple.
William D. Talbert III, president and CEO,of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, Miami