By STEVEN WINE
MIAMI (AP) — While the Miami Open is giving up its picturesque island setting for suburban sprawl, the tennis tournament’s new home will include a 13,800-seat showcase court in the Miami Dolphins’ stadium and 29 permanent outer courts, with the largest seating 5,042 spectators.
IMG, which owns the event, said Wednesday the new site will include more space for players, fans and parking, along with better infrastructure and amenities. The tournament won permission Tuesday from the Miami-Dade County commission to move 18 miles north in 2019 from its longtime home of Key Biscayne.
Construction of the new tennis complex will begin soon and cost more than $50 million, with much of the work done on grounds that had been used for football parking. Total seating capacity will increase to 32,474 from 25,062, including 5,660 at practice courts. Lighting will allow for more night matches.
The stadium court will use both permanent and temporary seats, with the net located over the 50-yard line. Screens will hide unused football seats.
There will be double the number of parking spaces and suites at the new site. The grounds will feature a “tennis oasis” for fans with the largest video screen of any tournament.
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, who also owns the stadium, said last spring he was willing to invest in a tennis complex on stadium grounds because he wanted to keep the tournament in South Florida. The Dolphins then reached an agreement with IMG and the county.
“We are extremely excited that the Miami Open, a global entertainment event, will remain in our community,” Ross said in a statement.
“The Miami Open belongs in Miami,” IMG co-president Mark Shapiro said.
A 2015 appeals court decision preventing upgrades to the Key Biscayne complex had left the event’s future in question. There had been speculation the tournament might leave South Florida, with potential sites ranging from South America to China.
“The Miami Open has been a part of Miami’s culture for as long as I can remember,” eight-time Key Biscayne champion Serena Williams said in a statement. “I am thrilled the Miami Open is staying in Miami where it belongs.”
Williams and her sister Venus own small stakes in the Dolphins.
The tournament starts March 19 on Key Biscayne for the 32nd and final time.