Developer unveils ‘pinnacle of the sport’ tournament plans in Charlotte’s River District
One of the world’s most prestigious tennis tournaments, with 350,000 global ticket buyers and a $275 million economic impact, is considering moving to Charlotte’s budding River District.
The Western and Southern Open would be a $400 million project, Ford Perry, chief operating officer of Beemok Capital in Charleston, South Carolina, told Charlotte and Mecklenburg County officials Wednesday. It could mean 40 total courts, including four stadiums, five additional match courts and a mix of hard, clay and indoor tennis and pickleball courts that Charlotteans could use year-round near the Catawba River.
By comparison, the Wells Fargo PGA Tour event in Charlotte has a $77 million economic impact and draws 115,000 fans, Perry said.
Beemok Capital bought the rights to the Cincinnati-based tournament for several hundred million dollars and wants to expand the event from one to two weeks in 2025, Perry said. Already, it’s among the nine top tennis trophies globally, he said, joining ones based in Paris, Madrid, Monte Carlo and Shanghai.
“It will be a pinnacle of the sport” with a new campus and expanded tournament, Perry said.
The Western and Southern Open attracts the world’s top men’s and women’s players, ranking just behind Wimbledon, the French Open, Australian Open and U.S. Open in prestige.
Beemok’s plan for a new campus also includes “free hours for need-based play” on the courts, including after-school programs and summer camps, Perry said
The tennis and entertainment complex would cover 50 acres, Perry said. Another 100 acres would be needed for parking, he added. An amphitheater would stage concerts.
While Beemok is considering several cities, including Cincinnati, “Charlotte has always been at the top of my list with respect to what the opportunity could be for this tournament,” Perry said.
The developer is requesting Mecklenburg County, the city of Charlotte and the state cover a third of the project costs, he said.
“It will be a generational opportunity for our city, county and state,” Charlotte City Council member Malcolm Graham said at Wednesday’s joint city-county meeting where Perry unveiled the plans. “We have the staff and the resources to do it.”
Beemok intends to decide on a city by summer’s end. So, it wants the city, county and state to OK financial incentives by then, Perry said. The developer wants to open the complex by August 2026.
The River District spans 1,400 acres of mostly forested land by the Catawba River.
The public-private development project with Crescent Communities will include 5,000 homes and apartments, millions of square feet of office space, half a million square feet of retail and 1,000 hotel rooms. It will even include a 2-acre working farm.
The district is similar in scale to Ballantyne, which over the past 25 years transformed woods and farmland on the edge of the city into a mini-city and center of development.
Businessman and philanthropist Ben Navarro, who heads Beemok Capital, was a high-profile but ultimately unsuccessful bidder for the Carolina Panthers when the team went up for sale in 2018. Jerry Richardson instead chose to sell the team to David Tepper, even though Richardson’s son, Mark, publicly supported Navarro.
Navarro also has a longstanding interest in tennis both on a financial and personal level. He is the father of Emma Navarro, who won the NCAA women’s singles championship in 2021 at Virginia. Now a professional, Emma Navarro cracked the top 100 in the women’s tennis rankings this week for the first time, at No. 83.
Observer sports columnist Scott Fowler contributed.