Changing venues: The Miami Open’s move to Hard Rock Stadium

Miami Open at Hard Rock Stadium
The new venue of the Miami Open. Source: Hard Rock Stadium

Changing venues. Sooner or later sports organisations change their home base. Sometimes they invest in infrastructure, either by renovating or starting brand new projects, expecting future financial returns. At times relocating is the only option, with the current location no longer available or adequate. While new markets combined with opportunity also tempt organisations to change their venue.

In this first instalment of three articles we take a look at the Miami Open. The tennis tournament has relocated to Hard Rock Stadium – home to NFL team the Miami Dolphins – after over 30 years at Crandon Park in Key Biscayne.

Why did the Miami Open change its venue?

As ATP Master 1000 and WTA Mandatory Event, the Miami Open is one of the main tennis events on the calendar. Held since 1987 at Crandon Park in Key Biscayne, the event is synonymous with the Miami lifestyle: great weather and mixed cultures, with lots of South American influences and fans.

Yet no matter how great an atmosphere or place’s sentimental value is, there are times when the venue is no longer suitable for the sports organisation or event. Which is exactly the case for the Miami Open at Crandon Park. The tournament has been unable to grow sufficiently over the last two decades. Mainly caused by the landowners’ desire to not extend beyond its current size and to stay true to the original purpose of the land.

Not growing and upgrading prevented the Miami Open from keeping up with other tournaments. You only have to look at the recent investments in Indian Wells, the same-level event that takes place right before the Miami Open, to see what investments can do for a tournament. Failure to invest or to adapt and move, could eventually have led to the Miami Open losing their ATP Masters 1000 and WTA Mandatory Event status to other tournaments.

From the Keys to Hard Rock Stadium

With the Miami Open unable to truly renovate its old location, it could only relocate to a brand new venue or to an existing venue adapted to the event’s demands. The latter is now the case, with the tournament relocating to the existing Hard Rock Stadium. The stadium is normally home to NFL team the Miami Dolphins (which is partly owned by the Williams sisters) and American football team the Miami Hurricanes. In 2020 it will also host the Super Bowl. 

The advantage of Hard Rock Stadium is that a lot of the infrastructure is already in place. Owner Stephen Ross privately funded a $550 million renovation that started in 2015 and continued through 2017. The result is a stadium and a park that have all the latest amenities to provide a fantastic fan experience, beyond just watching tennis.

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Yet moving to an existing venue, and one that is not built with tennis in mind, causes its own challenges. To make the complex tennis-proof another $50 million has been invested. The Miami Open at Hard Rock Stadium will therefore have among others:

  • 30 permanent show and practice courts
  • A 14,000-seat stadium court within Hard Rock Stadium
  • Luxury seating due to existing VIP-lounges
  • More space for players, media and fans
  • Improved parking right next to the complex
  • Largest video board in tennis
Miami Open at Hard Rock Stadium
14,000-seat stadium court within Hard Rock Stadium. Source: Hard Rock Stadium

Future potential

The move to Hard Rock Stadium is an upgrade compared to Crandon Park when looking at infrastructure and potential for future growth. 

During the two-week event the stadium will turn into a smaller main stadium with a capacity of 14,000. And even though the main stadium at Crandon Park could seat the same amount of spectators, the organisation can now decide to increase capacity up to 65,000 for future editions. The ‘American football-layout’ would likely not work for tennis matches, but is shows the potential to upgrade and evolve in the future, if demand requires it.

So moving to a new venue when the current location is no longer adequate and where renovation is not an option could well be the only way to keep up with competition and to grow. Whether hosting a tennis tournament at a complex primarily designed for American football will eventually pay off has to be seen. It is clear that there is a solid base and enough money, optimism, and future growth potential for the Miami Open to thrive at its new location.

This was the first of three parts about Changing Venues. Stay tuned for the other two parts.

1 Response

  1. Tennis Fan says:

    The new venue has received brutal reviews from both players and fans (too expensive, looks like a parking lot, etc).

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