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Beemok spurns Charlotte and will keep tennis tournament in Ohio

The city planned to build a $400 million tennis complex in the River District west of the airport.
City of Charlotte rendering
The city planned to build a $400 million tennis complex in the River District west of the airport.

South Carolina-based Beemok Sports said Tuesday morning that, despite months of public courtship, it won’t move the Southern and Western professional tennis tournament from suburban Cincinnati to Charlotte.

The announcement is a blow to Charlotte, which planned to have the tournament be the catalyst for a new $400 million tennis complex west of the airport in the River District.

To land the tennis tournament, the city, Mecklenburg County and the state offered Beemok a combined $110 million earlier this year. Beemok had requested that they cover about a third of the total cost, which would amount to roughly $133 million.

But the Cincinnati Enquirer reported officials in Ohio agreed to spend $130 million to keep the tournament and renovate the existing courts and stadiums in suburban Mason. The newspaper reported that Beemok is also planning to spend $130 million as part of a major renovation of the Lindner Family Tennis Center.

Beemok posted a video on X, formerly known as Twitter, Tuesday morning featuring the tournament’s 2023 winners, Coco Gauff and Novak Djokovic. They announced that “your wonderful tournament is staying in Cincinnati.”

Charlotte City Council member Malcolm Graham, who led Charlotte’s efforts to lure the tournament, said he spoke with Beemok CEO Ben Navarro about the decision shortly before the public announcement.

Graham said he thought Beemok was planning to come to Charlotte and that the city hadn’t been played as a way to get more money from Ohio.

“We met all the criterias that they laid out in terms of public investment, advancing infrastructure,” Graham said. “It’s nothing that we didn’t do. They just made a business decision. One that I respect but one that I’m extremely disappointed in hearing.”

In a statement, Navarro praised Charlotte officials.

"The leaders in Charlotte and the state have been incredible partners as we’ve evaluated our options. This was a very difficult decision, and we are deeply appreciative of the time, energy and resources that were invested alongside us,” Navarro said. “We have strong ties to the area and will look for ways to invest in the community and local tennis development in the future.”

The massive tennis complex would have been built in the River District, a large development that will also include shops, offices and thousands of residences. Graham said he doesn’t know what will replace it.

Charlotte was confident it would land the tournament, and city staff recommended against moving forward with a tennis complex that had been proposed for the Eastland Mall site. The city has instead chosen a Eastland plan that includes an amateur sports complex and outdoor recreation fields.

The tournament was estimated to have an annual economic impact of $275 million if it moved to Charlotte.

Beemok is expanding the tournament from one to two weeks starting in 2025.

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Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.