Organizers of the Miami Open tennis tournament on Key Biscayne remain embroiled in a legal battle over what they believe are unlawful restrictions prohibiting them from upgrading the facilities to keep up with ever-more-lavish tournaments around the world.
On Dec. 9, at a hearing before the Third District Court of Appeals, the International Players Championship (the tournament ownership group) will seek to reverse a September 2014 ruling in favor of Bruce Matheson and members of his family, which keeps the park as is and blocks proposed construction on the facility.
The Matheson family donated the park to the county in 1940, and retains a say in its use.
Tournament director Adam Barrett said their first choice is to stay in Key Biscayne, that they have not been shopping the tournament, but “that doesn’t stop people from inquiring’’ about the possibility of moving the event.
“We love Miami, the community has been very good to us, and we will stay here as long as we can; however, it’s about supply and demand, and we face obstacles that may be too big to overcome,’’ Barrett said. “Some of the infrastructure is not keeping with other facilities, and every day we don’t do something other facilities are improving without the handcuffs we have. The public has already voted overwhelmingly in a referendum in favor of us privately funding the upgrades, but we haven’t been able to move forward. People are reaching out to us, and some will take a look.’’
He would not say if he has fielded any serious offers, but said Orlando, Dubai, Doha, Beijing, Shanghai and Singapore are all places with world-class facilities that would welcome a tournament like the Miami Open, which draws 300,000-plus fans.
The U.S. Tennis Association in April broke ground on a $60 million facility with 100 courts in Lake Nona, Fla., a suburb of Orlando. It will be the largest tennis complex in the nation, and is due to be completed by late 2016. They are calling it USTA National Campus, the New Home of American Tennis.
Question is: Could it someday be the new home of the Miami Open tennis tournament, a fixture on Key Biscayne for the past three decades.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, asked by the Miami Herald about the possibility of the Miami Open winding up in his city, said: “The city of Orlando recently built several new venues, including a new events center, performing arts center, a reconstructed football stadium. In addition, we have facilitated private construction of both the new USTA facility and a major league soccer stadium. With all of these, our community has a strategic goal of looking for opportunities to attract world-class events and tournaments, some of those include tennis events like the Davis Cup, Fed Cup, NCAA regionals and NCAA finals.’’
Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs would not comment on whether the new USTA facility was being considered for professional events the size of the Miami Open.
“USTA is the perfect fit for Central Florida and Orlando,’’ Jacobs said. “Not only does it expand our global reach for professional, amateur and college sporting events, it provides a perfect mix for our world-class family entertainment and theme parks.’’
Said Barrett: “We are not making threats, not saying if we don’t get this, this and this, we’ll leave. But there are realities we have to face and there are other cities who would love to take this event away from Miami.’’