Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Tennis, anyone? Fee: $16.5M

Groups need cash to buy Masters site in Mason

By Cindi Andrews, candrews@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — Warren County, Deerfield Township and Mason leaders are meeting today to discuss whether the three groups can come up with the millions of dollars that tennis officials are short in their effort to buy the ATP Tennis Center in Mason.

        Paul and Bruce Flory, the father-son team that runs the Western & Southern Financial Masters, lease the site, but the lease expires in 2005. They've been negotiating to buy the center from Carl Lindner's American Financial Group, but haven't been able to meet the $16.5 million tag.

        Mason had looked into buying the center itself and leasing it to the Florys, but ultimately said the cost was too steep. The city paid for an appraisal of the 90-acre site last year that estimated the market value of the land would be $7.8 million if bought for development of office buildings — the most likely use if the tennis tournament left.

        If the tournament can't get a deal soon, Paul Flory says, it will have to consider rebuilding elsewhere — possibly even outside of the Tristate. The W&S tournament is one of nine Masters events in the world, behind only the four Opens in prestige. Players expected at this year's tournament include Lleyton Hewitt and Andre Agassi.

        The Warren County Convention and Visitors Bureau has promised $2.9 million of its hotel tax income over 19 years to help finance the tournament's land purchase, and Mason plans to give $2.5 million over 25 years. However, that would still leave the tournament roughly $4 million short, according to information Paul Flory gave the Deerfield Township trustees last month in a plea for help.

        The trustees made no decision, instead calling for a meeting with the county and Mason. It will be held at 3 p.m. today at the Warren County Administration Building, 406 Justice Drive, Lebanon. Still, the outcome is uncertain.

        “We've already made a commitment, so I'm not sure what else we can do,” City Manager Scot Lahrmer said.


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