Jun 12, 2023 - Development

Charlotte aims to land major tennis tournament with $65M commitment to a 50-acre tennis campus

City of Charlotte documents/Beemok

Update, July 6: Mecklenburg County commissioners voted to contribute $30 million to Project Break Point. The state is considering a $25 million appropriation, deputy county manager Leslie Johnson told the board.

  • Commissioners Arthur Griffin and Elaine Powell were the “no” votes. Griffin indicated he’d prefer to spend the money on public services. Powell was concerned about the environmental impacts.

Charlotte City Council voted unanimously Monday night to contribute $65 million toward construction costs for a proposed tennis campus in The River District in hopes of securing the project and landing a prestigious tournament from Ohio.

Why it matters: The campus could host the Western & Southern Open, a tennis competition with spectators from around the world. It would make The River District, a 1,400-acre under-construction community that is supposed to revolutionize the west side, a regional destination.

  • Securing the tennis complex could help further cement Charlotte’s position as a major sports city.

Yes, but: Beemok Sports, the Charleston firm behind the tennis complex, has not officially confirmed whether it will locate the tournament in Charlotte. It’s expected to make a decision soon.

What they’re saying: Multiple council members expressed strong interest in bringing the tournament here, stressing the potential economic splash it could create.

  • “I definitely hope that you will select our city,” at-large council member Dimple Ajmera told Beemok representatives. “I think you will hear from our community how much this means to our city.”
  • “I couldn’t even initially wrap my head around this,” said Mayor Pro Tem Braxton Winston. “This is something that usually doesn’t come around. I wouldn’t even say this is once in a lifetime. This is just once in your imagination.”

By the numbers: Beemok, known for operating Credit One Stadium in Charleston, is seeking a public investment to cover about one-third of the $400-million cost. Mecklenburg County, and possibly the state, will likely also chip in to reach a rough $133 million contribution.

  • The tournament is projected to draw more than 350,000 attendees annually and provide an economic impact of $275 million. Overall the campus would generate an estimated $300 million annually.
  • Beemok’s projections suggest the campus, which for now is being referred to as “Project Break Point,” would create nearly 2,500 jobs, not including in construction. But only 60 of those would be full-time, with average salaries between $60,000 and $85,000.

Context: Beemok representatives have said Charlotte is at the top of its list for relocating the Western & Southern Open after purchasing the rights to the tournament in September. To bring it here, though, they would need to construct the 50-plus acre tennis campus.

Details: The campus could host around 200 events a year, including concerts. It would feature:

  • Four stadiums
  • A 14,000-seat court
  • More than 40 hard, clay, indoor and pickleball courts
  • Green space integrated into Mecklenburg County’s park system and greenways
  • Parking for 10,000 cars, likely on land currently owned by the airport
  • A 45,000-square-foot player and academy building

Between the lines: Sourced from hospitality taxes, the city’s contribution would go toward amateur sports assets, per the terms council voted on. The city would then own those facilities, while Beemok maintains and operates them.

  • Beemok would have to operate here for at least 25 years.
  • The agreement also requires Beemok to let the public use its courts at an affordable rate.

What’s next: Beemok hopes to relocate the tournament by 2026. The firm is also considering keeping the tournament in the Cincinnati area.

Zoom out: The city’s quick decision to financially commit to this project has frustrated some residents on the east side, who are still waiting for leaders to decide on a community-driven land use for 29 acres at the old Eastland Mall site, especially since a racquet complex was once a consideration.

  • The city is now reviewing two possibilities for the Eastland redevelopment. One bid is for an athletics and esports center called QC East. The other is a new proposal for an amateur sports facility.
  • Monday night, attempting to underscore its commitment to the east side, council voted to reserve $20 million for a portion of its public investment in the Eastland proposal. That leaves $260 million in the hospitality fund.
  • Winston said the revenue Project Break Point produces will refill the hospitality bucket.
City of Charlotte documents/Beemok
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