Miami Open tennis reaches deal to move to Dolphins' stadium

MIAMI — Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has moved closer to bringing a championship to his stadium — in tennis.

The Miami Open signed paperwork with the Miami mayor's office to move from Key Biscayne to the NFL Dolphins' stadium beginning in 2019. Miami-Dade commissioners must approve the agreement reached by Mayor Carlos Gimenez's administration, a spokesman for the mayor said Wednesday.

Showcase matches would be held in the 65,000-seat stadium, which recently underwent a $500 million renovation, with other matches on the adjacent grounds.

The tournament has been held since 1987 on the island of Key Biscayne near downtown Miami. The event's future has been in question since a 2015 appeals court decision that prevents upgrades to the complex.

If the plan is approved to move the Miami Open 18 miles north to the stadium, Key Biscayne will host the event for the final time in March. Officials with the Dolphins and the tournament declined to comment.

Ross, who owns the stadium, has said he's willing to invest in a tennis center on stadium grounds because he wants to keep the tournament in South Florida. There had been speculation in recent years the Miami Open might relocate, with potential sites ranging from South America to China.

"Mr. Ross has proven time and time again he thinks big," said Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who plays tennis and has been a spectator at Key Biscayne. "Hopefully the tournament stays in town. Good for the city."

The Miami Open still draws most of the world's top players, along with more than 300,000 spectators each year, but has declined in prestige.

Parent company IMG wanted to stay on Key Biscayne, and was willing to pay for $50 million in improvements to its complex. But the site is a Miami-Dade County park, and heirs of the family that donated the land have long fought to limit construction.

The Dolphins haven't won a playoff game since Ross became owner in 2008, but his impact on South Florida's sports landscape can be measured in other ways.

The team's stadium has hosted Super Bowls and college national championship games, with more to come, as well as international soccer. It's the home of the Miami Hurricanes, and the former home of the Marlins.

But a tennis match would be a first.

"That's what Steve Ross is so good at — he thinks outside the box and does a lot of stuff where people are like, 'I don't know about that,'" said John Denney, the Dolphins' long snapper and an occasional tennis player. "He's willing to take that risk and find the next level. This could be huge."

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