Q. How does the Matheson lawsuit affect the construction timetable?
It’s 100 percent contingent on the Matheson lawsuit. Our first step was to start with the public. It wasn’t necessarily required first. We chose to start with it.
Before we went down that road [of pursuing an expansion] we wanted to make sure that the public agreed. Since we had this [referendum] requirement anyway, we said let’s start with it. If the public wants us to be here for the long haul and make these improvements without them paying for it, then we’ll go ahead and take all of the other necessary steps after the vote.
Our goal is to break ground in April 2014.
Q. Why do you think Bruce Matheson is opposing this?
In my opinion, I believe that Bruce has his own vision of the park, which is to return it to 1948. I think he has his own recollection of the history. If you hear him speak, he talks about the family’s donation. And they did donate 800 acres but it was in exchange for a bridge. It gave the family the ability to develop another 1,000 acres on Key Biscayne. It was a commercial venture.
I’ve actually never met him. I know about him. I know a lot of the history...This is a one-person crusade who believes his vision of Crandon Park overrides the citizens of Dade County.
Right now there is only one stadium. We have to build temporary stadiums. The only bathrooms are either in the clubhouse or in the stadium. If you’re out on the far court, there is nothing there. There are no bathrooms, there is no shade, there are no concessions. When we come in , we have to put up tents and we have to build stands. During the tournament, we bring 300,000 people—citizens plus tourists from all over the world. It should be a completely first class experience. Instead, they’re sitting in temporary bleachers.
[In a separate interview, Matheson accused IMG of trying to circumvent a settlement his family reached in 1993 with Miami-Dade over the donated park land. The previous owner of what was then the Lipton tournament wanted to build a tennis facility there in the 1980s, but the Mathesons sued to stop the county from allowing it.. A court fight over the family’s deed restrictions led to the settlement, which included restrictions on growth and a panel that must approve changes. Matheson sits on the committee. Of IMG, he said: “They’re trying to create a situation that suits their needs. The settlement and the master plan don’t allow it. They obviously read that document before they bought the tournament.”]
Q. Was there talk of going for public money for the stadium expansion?
There is always talk of going for public money. You can always justify going for public money. We are in a public venue and a publicly owned site right now. We feel that as long as we have a long-term home, given our relationship with the county, that the money used should come from the operations of the tournament and not from the taxpayers... We decided it was not the time to reach out
The community has been very very good for us. They have supported us through good times, through tougher times, through good weather and bad weather...
Q. How much does the tournament pay to Miami-Dade each year?
They get a share of the revenue—it’s a license fee. It’s in excess of $1.1 million.