Tennis stadium proposed for west Charlotte’s River District

CHARLOTTE — A new state-of-the-art professional tennis stadium has been proposed for west Charlotte. The international tennis destination would be an economic catalyst in an already impressive and under construction River District.

Charleston businessman Ben Navarro is pitching the 50-acre stadium and campus, along with the relocation of the Western & Southern Open, which is commonly known as the Cincinnati Masters. Its winner gets one of the nine most prestigious trophies in tennis, and the tournament “perennially guarantees a lineup of the best players in the world.”

The tournament draws top tennis stars like Serena Williams, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.

The Western & Southern Open will expand to two weeks in 2025. It’ll have 96 players and 12 days of competition, plus a championship weekend.

In addition to the tennis tournament, the proposed 12,000-14,000-seat stadium would hold the following events:

  • 30 days of collegiate and junior tournaments
  • 25 lower-level tournaments
  • 25 concerts
  • 15 festivals
  • 100 corporate events

A pickleball component will also be part of the tennis complex.

The developer estimates a $275 million economic impact from the Western & Southern Open with around 350,000 visitors to Charlotte. Beemok is pitching low and no cost court availability for the public when tournaments are not in session. A fulltime director of programming would be hired to oversee community programming. Beemok also would partner with Mecklenburg County on park space.

Channel 9′s Joe Bruno was present Wednesday when Beemok Capital made the pitch. Bruno learned Eastland Yards was evaluated as a potential home for the complex, but the proposed campus is too large.

“The idea of putting 10,000 cars on the east side was a challenge,” said Ford Perry with Beemok Capital.

Beemok, the team behind the proposal, is asking for a third of the $400 million project to funded by the public. Assistant City Manager Tracy Dodson said the city, county, and state could partner on that $130 million in public funding.

Public funding would have a cap. Beemok would cover cost overruns and oversee day-to-day operations.

The developer wants an answer by the end of the summer so that Charlotte could host the Western & Southern Open in 2026 if it’s approved.

“We want to build this so this is accessible to the entire community,” said Ford Perry with Beemok Capital.

Councilmembers and commissioners in attendance Wednesday seemed open to the idea of the project. Councilman Malcolm Graham said the city has the ability to invest in multiple projects at a time -- which alludes to the proposal on the table for Bank of America Stadium, the approved Spectrum Center upgrades, and the improvements scheduled for the Transit Center across the street.

“When you look at the return on the investment, especially if you have the opportunity to share it with other governing bodies, I believe from Malcolm Graham’s perspective, this is an Ace,” Graham said.

The tennis complex would be able to use land currently owned by the airport for parking.

Navarro’s name might be familiar to some in the Charlotte sports scene. He was among those who submitted a bid to purchase the Carolina Panthers back in 2018.

Crews broke ground on the first phase of the River District, the Westrow, in March. It will bring 70 acres of homes, apartments, retail, office, and restaurant space, along with a 2-acre working farm. Construction on the first phase is expected to wrap by 2025.

The entire River District project is 1,400 acres.

(WATCH BELOW: City discussed $1.2 billion framework for Panthers stadium renovations)

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