When the globe’s top-ranked tennis pros descend on South Florida for the Miami Open this March, for the first time in more than 30 years the high-profile tournament won’t be played at the Crandon Park Tennis Center on Key Biscayne. Instead, they’ll hold court at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, the same flashy venue where the Miami Dolphins play football. So, how do you play major tennis matches at a football stadium, you ask? Even better, says tournament officials.
“We were at a point where we were blocked from building at Crandon, and from making the improvements that we wanted to make. The tour was thinking of moving from Miami and we wanted to keep it here,” says Miami Open Tournament Director James Blake of the dramatic move. “Thanks to the vision of Dolphins’ owner Stephen Ross, we were able to keep it here. He wanted to make it first-class everything with top-of-the line experiences.”
Ross previously invested $550 million in the renovation of Hard Rock Stadium, and now tennis fans will take advantage of the luxe digs along with 30 permanent show and practice courts, upgraded amenities, the largest video board in tennis to catch all the action, a state-of-the-art shade canopy and expanded parking. “The centerpiece of the move will be a new stadium court, which will showcase a 14,000-seat stadium within Hard Rock Stadium. The stadium court was designed to provide an intimate experience for all fans, while offering one of kind luxury seating unlike anything in tennis,” says Jeremy Walls, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Miami Dolphins & Hard Rock Stadium. Guests will also have access to plush amenities that Dolphins fans are used to, like the swanky 72 Club and The Nine, which offer premium seating and upscale food and drinks, and now, private Cabana Suites and Courtside Living Room Boxes where fans get an up-close, feel-the-whiff-of-the-tennis-ball experience.
Location, Location, Location
If ticket sales are any indication, excitement is building around the new locale. “There’s already been a 20 percent jump in ticket sales from 2018,” points out Blake, who adds that the move to Hard Rock Stadium is also expected to draw more tennis fans from neighboring Broward and Palm Beach counties. “There are a lot of tennis clubs in those counties, and in the past, maybe every two years those people would make the drive down to Key Biscayne. Now, tennis fans can attend five or six days of the event. It can be last minute, instead of being a huge, planned-out ordeal.” And, with traffic patterns set for 65,000 football fans that regularly flock to the stadium, traffic and parking should be easier than maneuvering over the Rickenbacker Causeway to tiny Key Biscayne.
Party Like a Tennis Star
Unless there’s a last-minute injury, dedicated fans will watch exceptional tennis from greats like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Serena and Venus Williams, Naomi Osaka, Maria Sharapova and Sloane Stephens, who all will also benefit from the major upgrades at the new venue. “For years, the Miami Open was called the ‘fifth major’ and we want to keep it that way,” says Blake. “It holds a special place in the players’ minds and the winner will take home over a million dollars. It’s a pretty big paycheck.”
With those marquee players comes a well-heeled, A-list crowd, and all the extra real estate at the stadium also means more room for a bigger focus on what Miami does best: party. Fans can anticipate over-the-top places to hang out when they’re not watching tennis, like a Stella Beer Garden, the Grove, the multi-level Spanish Steps and the always-popular lounge inside the Moët Champagne tent where bubbly flows freely. The culinary aspect is also stepped up with high-end restaurant concepts from Bourbon Steak, Casa Tua Cucina, Novecento, Kiki on the River, Bluestone Lane and more. “This isn’t your typical burger and fries. It’s restaurants that you’re not used to seeing at a normal event,” says Blake. “You can have a different type of food every day, and we’re excited to give people an unbelievable dining experience.”
The Miami Open happens March 18-31. For more information or to purchase tickets, go to miamiopen.com.