Miami Open set to get started in its new home at Hard Rock Stadium

Tennis in a football stadium?

As odd as it sounds on the surface, the Miami Open, along with Miami Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium owner Steve Ross, have made it work.

Gone is the iconic scenic drive over the Rickenbacker Causeway to get to the Miami Open’s old Key Biscayne location, but the new venue offers a series of improvements in space accommodation and a number of food, drink, art and entertainment options that make it as much a Miami event as it is the top-tier tennis tournament it has been for much of the past 35 years in South Florida.

“The possibilities are endless here, so we’re absolutely thrilled,” said Miami Open tournament director James Blake, who won 10 titles in his playing days. “I think there were a lot of skeptics last year when they couldn’t envision a tennis court in a football stadium and the rest of the courts in a parking lot. I think they were understandably skeptical, and now, when they’ve gotten here, I’ve heard nothing but positive comments about the courts, about the facilities, about the space we have, about the options that we can undertake for the next, hopefully, many years here.”

Outside, the secondary grandstand stadium seats 5,191 with Court 1 and Court 2 fitting 3,024 and 1,564, respectively. Between stadium court and the grandstand is where the non-tennis entertainment takes place from the site’s east terrace to its west lawn and “The Grove.”

Fans can lounge while enjoying food and beverage, including the Miami Open’s signature cocktail, the MO Smash, from dozens of restaurants and bars. They can take in live entertainment at Kiki on the River or check out Art Open Miami, which produced by Art Miami, will feature modern and contemporary paintings, prints, sculptures and photography art for sale.

“That’s what we’re hoping for — making this more than just a tennis tournament, making this really the best tennis and entertainment event,” Blake said.

Not a second of the tennis has to be missed to enjoy the outdoor amenities as video screens keep an eye on the action — one of them being the largest video board in tennis at 90 feet wide by 40 feet tall, which oversees the outdoor lounges.

Amenities for players include increased dining, gym, locker room and lounge space. While it’ll be a more comfortable setting, players nonetheless will have to grow accustomed to the change in scenery.

“That center court, it’s always going to be a special to me because it was the biggest match I ever won there,” said Isner at the Delray Beach Open last month. “I think it’s just the history of that place. Driving up there is always fun. It’s always beautiful. I think everything about it is very unique and a very intimate setting.”

Blake said the drive over the Rickenbacker Causeway to Crandon Park will be what he too misses most about the Open’s run at Key Biscayne.

“When you have something like that, you have the nostalgia,” he said. “Once you make some memories here, I think it’s going to be just as special when you come up here.” / On Twitter @DavidFurones_