MIAMI, Fla. – The Miami Open would have preferred to stay on picturesque Key Biscayne, building new and upgrading old facilities to keep up with the level demanded these days by Masters 1000 events.
But for various reasons, that wasn’t to be.
So the tournament, which is owned and run by the big agency IMG, found a great partner in Steven Ross, owner of the Miami Dolphins.
And when fans start coming into the “new” Miami Open this week (qualifying begins Monday), they’ll definitely find … everything very new.
Much of the asphalt has barely been poured. The two long (LOOOONG) lines of practice courts are newly-laid.
Even the palm trees are wearing training wheels.
It’s going to be an interesting ride – but make sure you bring $40 to park your car.
Take a video tour
Here’s a video tour of the new facility, which spreads out over a pretty big footprint.
You’ll see some guest appearances by Garbiñe Muguruza, Stan Wawrinka and Lucas Pouille, Hyeon Chung and the impressive six-pack of young Russian Andrey Rublev, among others.
The practice courts
They are laid out in two looong lines, with fairly easy access for the players on one side of the fences, although they’ll need a golf cart to get there in a hurry.
On Sunday, a lot of the players walked, as even more players and coaches kind of ambled around a little lost.
There is … asphalt. Even in a few wide gape between the practice courts. There is aluminium, as all the practice courts have temporary bleachers erected on one side.
That’ll be great for the fans, who love watching the players practice. Although it doesn’t seem as though this is as big a deal as it is at some tournaments, judging by the crowds we saw at the old site on Key Biscayne.
What it will be? Noisy. And windy. Oh, and hot.
It’s a parking, lot, basically. And so it’s pretty wide open – which means wind. It’s surrounded by asphalt – which means heat. And we all know how noisy and rickety those temporary stands can be. The particular volume of traffic of people coming and going from practice courts will mean a lot of coming and going from those stands.
And that’s especially true in the way the stands are built. You can’t go from one of the many courts to another without going down the stairs, and climbing back up to another section of stands.
So we’ll see how that works out.
But the main takeaway is this: there are plenty of practice courts. More than they will probably need. And that’s a big plus for the players. It’s something that has been an ongoing complaint in joint events, that there just aren’t enough.
No worries here.
The concessions area
They’ve done a beautiful job on this, with a huge area of (fake, but nice fake) grass and a lot of restaurants to choose from (bring your wallet).
There are plenty of trees around it. So when you’re meandering around that area, you won’t even feel as though you’re in the parking lot of a football stadium.
The stadium court
This setup is truly a marvel of engineering. It’s hard to even fathom how much it’s going to cost to install this 14,000-seat stadium inside the massive football stadium that hosts it.
We’ll see what it feels like when you’re sitting inside – whether you get the sense that it’s a small blip in a big facility, or whether it feels intimate enough that you don’t even notice.
The angle of the temporary stands looks good – acute enough that even if you’re in the back rows, you won’t feel that far away from the court. The permanent stands that are on two side of it don’t have quite the same acute angle.
The jumbo screens are really jumbo.
The broadcasters are going to find their angle a little interesting, as most are used to being behind the court. In this configuration, they’ll sort of be at an angle, on the corners of the court. But it looks as though they’ll have a nice view.
One thing the fans are going to find that if they have stadium tickets, they’re going to have a fair trek to get there. And it’ll take awhile to get into the stadium.
It’s not further than it was at the old place, where the second-biggest court was all the way at the end of the site. But it’ll be far for everyone.
In speaking to Félix Auger-Aliassime on Sunday, he said that the facilities for the players inside the stadium are a big upgrade from what they were on Key Biscayne.
From the little we were able to see inside Sunday, the practice-court desk was massive. And because it was in the annals of the stadium, with a very high ceiling, it was all very open. And the players had a short walk out to the parking lot if they’ve rented a car for the week.
One challenge they will discover is whether they can still stay in downtown Miami and commute to the new site – which is on Florida’s Turnpike, on the edge of Broward and Dade Counties – without major hassles.
The traffic coming onto Key Biscayne, which only had one bridge, could be onerous at times unless you arrived very early or left very late. As the crow flew, it wasn’t far from downtown Miami. But it could be a challenge.
The new site is much further away. But, in theory, they are going against the morning traffic streaming into downtown Miami. So they should be able to make it in half an hour – unless, of course, the inevitable accident occurs at the wrong spot.
Will the fans come?
It is always a challenge to get fans to accept change. Despite the traffic woes, it seems as though Miami-area fans enjoyed the old event.
This one doesn’t, and will never, have the charm of the original.
And the new site truly is in the middle of nowhere, even if there’s easy highway access.
The parking prices are startlingly high – $40, even at the start of the event. You can prepay it for $25. But still, that’s just the start of the financial layout for the day.
We’ve heard that the ticket sales aren’t … awesome so far. The new site will look a lot less … parking-lot like if it’s filled with people.
So hopefully if you build it, they will come.