For a top sports executive who recently helped convince voters to allow a major expansion of a stadium, Adam Barrett doesn’t sound quite as celebratory as you might think.
The director of the Sony Open tennis tournament presided over November’s successful ballot initiative that saw Miami-Dade voters approve a $50 million renovation of the county-owned facility that houses the annual two-week event.
There was a catch: no public dollars can go into the project, just tournament revenue. But for the profitable tournament, the victory meant a tacit endorsement of a lucrative 50-year lease and the kind of voter approval a certain professional team slightly north of Key Biscayne can only dream about for now.
But despite the referendum passing with almost 73 percent of the vote, Barrett does not describe the expansion as a done deal. The plan is to expand the current main court facility and build two other permanent courts to replace the temporary stands and facilities IMG sets up each year.
In interviews with Business Monday, Barrett emphasized that a lawsuit and the local regulatory process still could undo a privately-funded plan he said is crucial to keeping the tournament in the Miami area. Without more revenue that comes with an expanded facility, Barrett says Sony can’t keep pace the rival tournaments, including the prize money offered players. That prize money lures the stars that, in turn, drive dollars from fans and sponsors.
Sony looms large in the U.S. portfolio of Barrett’s employer, IMG. A sports conglomerate, it has investments throughout the tennis industry that sustains the tournament. It trains aspiring players, manages pros, owns tournaments and runs businesses tied to the marketing and merchandising of various tennis entities, including the Wimbledon tournament in the United Kingdom.
Barrett said it’s tough comparing Wimbledon to Key Biscayne’s corner of the tennis industry. But in his interview, he discussed why Sony needs better facilities, what a lack of celebrity players means for the tournament, and how champagne easily outsells beer even on the hottest day at the tourney.
Q. Can you explain IMG’s role in the tennis industry — you run an academy, you represent players and you run major tournaments.
It’s a global business divided into three parts. Sports, entertainment and media. They cross over into the sports area in both the media and the sports realm.
We’ve always represented Maria Sharapova. Venus Williams has always been one of our players. Up until last year, we represented Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. We’ve had them for the majority of their career.
IMG also trains players to compete professionally. They have an academy. But the IMG academy is not just tennis, they also have golf, they train the professional players prior to the combines for the NFL.
On the sports side as it relates to tennis, they represent media rights for Wimbledon, and marketing rights for the Australian Open. They own events around the world. Two events in the U.S., events in Paris, and they also run events for a lot of different emerging countries, including India. This is all tennis. They do the same for golf. We’re the single largest event in their portfolio that they own.
Q. What are the other tournaments that compete with Sony?
It’s Indian Wells [in California]. It’s Cincinnati. It’s the Canadian open. Globally, it’s the Rome Open. It’s Paris. It’s Madrid. It’s Shanghai.