Sony tennis tournament asks for a speedy court ruling

04/03/2014 4:57 PM

04/03/2014 9:22 PM

A lawyer for the Sony Open tennis tournament warned a judge Thursday that if he didn’t quickly resolve a legal dispute involving an expansion of the tourney courts, it would cost millions of dollars and delay the project by at least a year.

Eugene Stearns, representing tournament owner International Players Championship, made the claim during a Miami-Dade circuit court hearing over IPC’s efforts to undo a 21-year-old governance agreement over the county park that houses the Sony tourney on Key Biscayne.

Bruce Matheson, whose family used to own the parkland, separately sued to block IPC’s deal with Miami-Dade to build a $50 million complex for the tournament that would include permanent seating for three courts and a larger footprint for the main stadium. Matheson holds a seat on a committee that oversees the park under the terms of a 1993 settlement between Miami-Dade and his family when the tennis complex was first built for the tournament. The Mathesons claimed the construction violated deed restrictions from the 1940s tied to the property that requires the limiting of commercial activity at the park.

A November 2012 referendum endorsed the expansion, though the park committee still can reject the plan. In its suit, IPC argues the committee’s authority improperly puts the park under the control of Matheson, rather than the county’s elected leaders.

Stearns, of Stearns Weaver Miller, told Judge Marc Schumacher that if construction can’t start by May, the project will have to wait another year before it can begin. “The damage that’s being caused to so many people is by a single individual,” Stearns said.

Matheson lawyer Richard Ovelmen, of Carlton Fields, objected to the request for an expedited calendar, saying “Like so many people who are given too much, they want more. And they want it now.”

Schumacher set a scheduling conference for Wednesday morning.

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