Photos by Conrad Klank, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.57
Lindner Family Tennis Center 5460 Courseview Dr Mason, OH 45040
Year Opened: 1979
Tennis in the Midwest
The Lindner Family Tennis Center is the home of The Western and Southern Open: ATP Masters 1000 and WTA Tier 5 combined event, located in the quaint northern Cincinnati suburb of Mason, Ohio. The event is the oldest tennis tournament in the United States, which is still being played in its original city. This historic tennis tournament occupies the middle two weeks of August each year on the ATP and WTA Tour calendars. The grounds of the tournament, which are located just a stones throw off of Interstate 71, now feature 5 tennis dedicated permanent stadiums, which is the only non-grand slam event with more than 3 permanent tennis stadiums. In addition to the impressive stadiums on site, the property also includes 5 other match courts, 6 practice courts, a full food court, 18 luxury suites, 6 corporate chalets, a grand shopping plaza, a full service private restaurant, a full upper level bar and lounge, a brand new ticket office and front entrance complex and 4 large designated on-site parking areas. Center court, the largest stadium in the facility, which has been renovated numerous times throughout the history of the tournament, features 11,400-ticketed seats. The second largest stadium in the complex, grandstand court, seats 5,000 with about three quarters of the seats being public seating. Next, the brand new court 3 comfortably seats 3,500. Courts 4 and 9 are also small stadiums on site, which seat 2,500 and 2,000 respectively. Lastly, court 10 seats just over 1,000. This tournament has successfully transformed itself from a wonderful small and personal professional tournament to an impressive miniature grand slam event located in a small city setting. Read on to find out what goes into making this an astonishing event.
Food & Beverage 5
It has been said that one can find literally anything to eat or drink that tickles their fancy; from my experiences, that statement is completely accurate. The food village at the event features 14 unique local and national chain restaurants from every style of food from around the world. Additionally, there are three concession stands conveniently located in the corners on the ground floor of center court. These stands feature the expected stadium fare found at ordinary sporting events, and are top notch. If one is looking to grab a quick snack and drink during a break in play, their best bet would be to get a quick fire-grilled pretzel and homemade lemonade from the carts spread out all over the grounds, these are a personal recommendation. When you're ready for an alcoholic drink, there are numerous unique places, which come highly recommended, each for a slightly different experience. The first being the Corona Beach House, located in the center of the food plaza, is ideal to grab an ice cold beer and enjoy the festivities. Another is a secluded bar, located on the exterior second level in the southeast corner of center court. This is a wonderful shaded full bar and lounge with a large area to relax and meet up with friends. Each year, creative specialty mixed drinks are crafted to please the tastes of tennis fans. One would be hard pressed not to find lots of tasty food and drinks all over the grounds.
The atmosphere at this tournament is spectacular year after year. Fans travel from all over the world to support their favorite players, which creates a very unique experience. One will find the best atmosphere in some of the smaller match courts, where highly seeded players will draw large crowds to the small, romantic courts for an up close and personal view of the game's biggest stars in action. Most of the sessions of the two-week tournament will sell out, therefore creating a wonderful atmosphere of loud but respectful tennis fans. Be sure to get your tickets early. One thing that always creates a fun buzz is the speed serve booth. For a nominal fee fans get the chance to test out their serving skills against a speedometer for a daily and weekly prize for the best in each age category. There are sure to be great crowds that gather to see some future tennis stars in action.
While there aren't a ton of great local joints nearby for a bite before or after the action on the tennis courts, there is lots of other nearby entertainment. If you haven't gotten your fill of Skyline Chili at the tournament, take a right out of the tournament and grab a Cheese Coney and watch some baseball at the local favorite right around the corner. Just opposite the tournament site on the other side of I-71 is Kings Island Amusement Park. This is a regionally renowned park, which features some of the fastest, highest, and scariest rides around. Often, tournament players are spotted on the ground of Kings Island as well. If you're in town on a hot day, you may prefer to visit the Beach Waterpark, which is easily spotted just off of the highway at the same exit as well. Just adjacent to Kings Island and the Beach are two highly recommended hotels: The Kings Island Resort and The Great Wolf Lodge. These are the two most convenient lodging options. Additionally, just a mile south of the tournament site on I-71, the Fields Ertel exit provides numerous chain restaurants as well as plenty of hotel options. This would be the recommended area to stay or eat due to more reasonable pricing.
As mentioned before, the fans who turn out for the tournament each year are extremely enthusiastic international tennis aficionados. It is not uncommon to see plenty of creative costumes and outfits to publically show their support for their favorite players no matter their origin. Flags, signs, and large autograph tennis balls have become the norm of the tennis fanatics. In addition to the tennis obsessives, there are plenty of affluent recreational tennis players who enjoy some of the amenities that the tournament offers.
The access in and out of the tournament is completely and flawlessly planned out to the last detail. The parking committee does a fantastic job of keeping traffic moving in and out of the respective lots. There are four lots located on the golf course, which surrounds the tennis complex. Lot A and B require special permits as well as the Volunteer lot. Lot C is a free lot, open to the general public. When exiting the highway, be sure to keep a lookout for signs directing traffic to the respective parking lots.
The brand new ticket office, located on the north end of the complex provides a refreshingly easy in and out of a previously inconvenient ticketing experience.
Once inside the tournament grounds, one will find it to be an extremely enjoyable and easy complex to move around in. Additionally, while restrooms are plentiful, between matches it's not uncommon for lines to form, but this is to be expected and doesn't deserve a reduction in score.
Return on Investment 4
Typically when looking at ticket prices and their value for general sporting events one will see a pretty strict scale or range depending on the game and which visiting team is in town. With tennis, tickets get pricier not only as the seat gets better, but also as the week progresses towards the finals weekend, thus putting value on different aspects of the week. A personal favorite is to get the lower end tickets at the beginning of the tournament in order to see all of the lower ranked players as well as the higher, as all players are in action. For less avid tennis fans, the second week action may be a little more attractive because the chance to see two highly ranked opponents square off is much greater. Overall, tickets are priced fairly and competitively, and one will enjoy the experience for the amount paid. Likewise with food and drink; nourishment at sporting events is always pricier than what you can find in a grocery store, but this is what you come to expect; you won't go broke after a day on the grounds of the Western & Southern Open.
The entertainment options outside of the tournament even in a rural small town deserve an extra point. Being a non grand slam, this tournament has a very impressive collection of match and practice courts. One thing that fans will never find at the grand slams, especially not at the US Open, is that players will often walk around the grounds with their coaches on their way to and from the courts and locker room, which makes for perfect times to get a picture or autograph from one's favorite player. These opportunities are rarely found at the grand slam. Because the complex is surrounded by a golf course, there is ample parking for fans to drive to the tournament unlike others, which require public transportation to the immediate grounds of the tournament. The brand new grand entrance plaza, court 3, and fantastic world-class food court are additions to the facility that give it full marks in this category.