Sunday, July 29, 2001

Future of ATP center up in air

Mason considers purchase of site

By Earnest Winston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MASON — The most cost-effective method of retaining the Tennis Masters Series Cincinnati in Greater Cincinnati is to continue operation at the site off Interstate 71, according to a feasibility study.

        The golf and tennis facilities could generate funds for the city if used year-round, the study says, and Mason should consider naming rights to pay off the debt on the purchase and make stadium improvements. Raising ticket prices is another option named in the study, done by Maryland financial consulting firm Hunter Interests Inc. The city paid $10,000 for the study.

        Although the study did not specifically recommend that Mason buy the facility, it appeared to favor that idea.

        According to a University of Cincinnati study, last year's tournament drew about 170,000 people and generated an estimated $21 million for Greater Cincinnati's economy.

        City Manager Scot Lahrmer said City Council in the next 30 days could decid whether it's financially feasible to keep Greater Cincinnati's signature professional tennis tournament in this Warren County city.

        American Financial Group, owner of the property near Paramount's Kings Island where the Tennis Masters Series Cincinnati is held, is seeking an estimated $17 million for the facility.

        Under a deal being negotiated, Mason would buy the property, which includes the Bruin Golf Course, and then lease the tennis center to the Tennis Masters Series Cincinnati, whose lease runs through 2005.

        Last week, Paul Flory, director of the Tennis Masters Series Cincinnati, gave city leaders a tour of the facility.

        “The process is in their hands,” said Mr. Flory. “They're trying to move forward and get the necessary information that they need. We hope it gets done as soon as possible.”

        Shirley Bonekemper, executive director of the Warren County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the agency's board of directors hasn't figured out how much financial help it can provide to Mason. City officials have asked the state for $7 million to help pay for the deal.

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