They're only buying the men's tournament, but they're looking to make a combined event.
USTA Buys Cincinnati Masters
By Tennis Week Monday, August 04, 2008
The USTA has acquired another Masters Series title.
The White Plains, N.Y.-based Tennis Association is expanding its portfolio of tournaments by purchasing majority ownership the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters in Cincinnati, the USTA announced today.
The USTA has reached an agreement with current owner Tennis Cincinnati to "acquire a majority interest in the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters – the second-highest-attended summer tennis event in the U.S. after the U.S. Open." Tennis Cincinnati will retain a minor ownership interest in the event, which is actually staged in Mason, Ohio, a short drive from Cincinnati.
Financial terms of the deal, which is contingent on the ATP's approval, were not disclosed though The SportsBusiness Journal reports when Indian Wells was sold two years ago to a group that included the USTA, the sanction fee was $20 million. Given the fact the USTA will be majority owner in Cincinnati it is probable that fee may be higher.
Under the operation of the Flory family — Tournament Chairman Paul Flory and Tournament Director Bruce Flory — Cincinnati has established a well-earned reputation as a well-run event that is both a favorite of players and fans. The Flory family, tournament COO Elaine Bruening (Tournament COO) and the current tournament staff will continue to run the day-today operations of the tournament.
Cincinnati is one of nine Masters Series events on the ATP calendar and is reportedly confronting up to $20 million in site improvements, which served as the impetus for selling majority interest in the event. Owners of other current tournaments were rumored to be among the bidders before Tennis Cincinnati reached an agreement with the USTA.
"The USTA, with its outstanding major event, the U.S. Open, brings a world-class approach to promoting tennis events and we look forward to working with the entire team to make our event even more player — and fan-friendly," Paul Flory said.
Additionally, the USTA and Tennis Cincinnati are in discussions to potentially secure a top women’s tournament for a future combined men’s and women’s event. The USTA is aiming to create in Cincinnati the type of combined events it already owns in Indian Wells, where it is a minority owner, and New Haven, where it is sole owner of Pilot Pen Tennis, which is the final U.S. Open Series event of the season in August.
"The Cincinnati area enjoys a strong tennis tradition with some of the most passionate fans in the sport, and we look forward to working with the Florys to further enhance the excitement and appeal of this great event," said Arlen Kantarian, USTA CEO of Pro Tennis. "This tournament has elevated the sport of tennis in the country’s heartland, while providing significant contributions to community causes. This is a legacy we look forward to building upon."
That construction plan includes the facilities and television coverage.
In buying the tournament, the USTA does not acquire the 89-acre site in Mason or the Lindner Family Tennis Center stadium. The USTA will lease both the site and stadium from Tennis For Charity, the non-profit owner which uses tournament proceeds to support Cincinnati’s Children’s Hospital Medical Center, the Barrett Cancer Center and Tennis for City Youth. In 2007, proceeds from the tournament were donated to Children’s Hospital for the 34th consecutive year, with
donations totaling more than $7 million to local charities over that time, according to the USTA.
"Our mission has always been to support our charitable efforts, and expanding the tournament is a great step in this direction," Paul Flory said.
Significant upgrades are planned for the tournament beginning in 2009, including a multi-million dollar stadium renovation and an enhanced broadcast television schedule.
CBS will televise the Cincinnati final in 2009 and the USTA is promising there will be significantly more television coverage than the 12 hours ESPN2 televised last week, in the coming years.