The sporting culture surrounding tennis has always been synonymous with luxury. From lavish watch commercials featuring Roger Federer and Serena Williams to ads explaining what tourist attractions are available around the tournament’s host city, it comes as no surprise that Miami was chosen to be one of the international stops on the professional tennis circuit.
Since its inaugural season in 1985, the Miami Open (it has had several names) has consistently been one of the most anticipated and attended tennis tournaments. While known for its brutal heat and harsh humidity, it provides a more intimate experience compared to other major tournaments like Wimbledon or the US Open.
However, that intimacy will soon end. The Miami Open will be move from Crandon Park in Key Biscayne to the a more modern facility, Hard Rock Stadium, next month.
The change has been a long time coming.
With Crandon Park’s buildings in need of serious renovation and the tournament in desperate need of a revamp, the Women’s Tennis Association, the Association of Tennis Professionals commissioners and Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross decided to save the Open by agreeing to host it in Miami Gardens. Already, the tournament has sold well more than its 2019 target for tickets, and with the construction being completed in time, the only real issue is the tournament’s post-match entertainment.
Despite that achievement, Key Biscayne has been a key element for the Miami Open since the beginning.
At Crandon Park, match attendees only had to drive twenty minutes to downtown Miami where players and fans could relax, hang out or dine after a long day of tennis. Not only are there shopping centers to enjoy, but for the more adventurous tennis watcher, there are plenty of national parks available to visit if they aren’t attending night matches. From Crandon Park beach, Vizcaya Museum and Gardens or even the lighthouses on Virginia Key, all of these options are within a 26-minute range from the tennis grounds; this is one of the reasons why switching to Hard Rock Stadium may be a poor idea.
And though the Hard Rock may be more modern and up to date with the current times, moving farther north robs visitors of entertainment opportunities. Compared to Key Biscayne and Crandon Park, the area surrounding Hard Rock consists of Miami Norland Senior High School and a Wal-Mart. No offense to those who attend Miami Norland, but it isn’t the most exciting thing to see when leaving a structure as nice as Hard Rock Stadium.
To counteract this problem, Miami Open organizers have provided several services for matchgoers such as a rooftop deck designed with Spanish steps, a beer garden and a food court that doubles as a green space with tables. The player services will also be upgraded, with gym space tripling in size and cozier amenities for friends and family members.
Even though the tournament may be “upgraded,” the charm of playing at Key Biscayne will be lost.
It was easier to get to Wynwood Walls from Crandon Park (a 26-minute drive) compared to the 32 minutes it would take from Hard Rock Stadium. Yes, the ticket prices went up and there will be more attendees, but tournament officials will have to deal with unhappy tennis fans and their lack of entertainment options.
Time will tell whether or not the changes will stick. We can only hope that the in-house comforts will be enough to gratify even the most stubborn Miami tennis fans.