Departure of pro tennis tournament ‘big loss’ for economy in Butler, Warren counties

Fans will be unable to see some of the world’s best tennis players after the Western & Southern Open was moved from Mason to New York City for one year. Here, Yoshihito Nishioka signs autographs after beating Ales de Minaur last year. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Fans will be unable to see some of the world’s best tennis players after the Western & Southern Open was moved from Mason to New York City for one year. Here, Yoshihito Nishioka signs autographs after beating Ales de Minaur last year. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Losing the Western & Southern Ohio to New York City for one year will cost the Warren County region about $68 million in tourism, officials said.

It was announced this week the prestigious tennis tournament that draws some of the top players in the world will move from the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Warren County to New York City because officials want to limit player travel in advance of the U.S. Open in New York.

For just the fourth time in its 122-year history, the event will not be played in southwest Ohio in August.

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The tournament, which was scheduled for Aug. 15-23 and brought nearly 200,000 visitors to Warren County last year, ranks among the region’s largest tourism draws annually and represents one of its largest drivers of economic impact, said Phillip S. Smith, president and CEO of the Warren County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

While all signs point to the W&S Open returning to Warren County in 2021, its move this year will represent yet another significant blow to the region’s tourism industry, Smith said. Warren County, where tourism is the No. 1 industry, has more than 12.3 million yearly visitors who drive an economic impact of more than $1.24 billion.

The county has been severely impacted by the coronavirus because Kings Island, located near the tennis center, hasn’t opened and youth sports tournaments have been postponed or cancelled.

The impact of the event moving will be felt across county lines, said Mark Hecquet, president of the Butler County Visitors Bureau. He said about 2,000 hotel nights are reserved every year in neighboring Butler County for the Western & Southern and besides hotels, not having the tourney will impact restaurants, bars and entertainment venues.

“A very big loss,” he said.

The Western & Southern Open began in Cincinnati as the Tri-State Tennis Championship in 1899. It was called the Tri-State because it represented the combined state titles of Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky. As such, it was played in other states in some early years. The last time it was not played in Cincinnati was in 1920 when it was played in Ft. Wayne, Ind.

The Lindner Family Tennis Center includes four permanent tennis stadiums (Center Court, Grandstand Court, Court 3 and Court 10), distinguishing it as the only world tennis venue, apart from the four Grand Slam venues, with more than two permanent stadiums.

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Center Court, built in 1981 and expanded many times since, has a capacity of 11,400. Grandstand Court, built in 1995, has a capacity of 5,000. Court 3, built in 2010, seats 4,000. Court 10, built in 1997, has a capacity of 2,000.

The venue also hosts the Atlantic 10 Conference Tennis Championships and the Ohio Athletic Conference Tennis Championships. It has hosted the Association of Volleyball Professionals Cincinnati professional sand volleyball tournament, special events such as concerts and Hospice of Cincinnati’s annual fundraising event, and numerous national and regional high school tennis tournaments.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association tennis state championships tournament also are held there.

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