Tennis star Serena Williams remembers very well her first reaction to Dolphins owner Stephen Ross suggesting moving the Miami Open to Hard Rock Stadium.
She just didn't think it could be done.
But there she was Monday morning at the place the Dolphins call home taking part in a press conference to celebrate the move of the tennis tournament to Hard Rock Stadium starting next year, complete with a ceremonial groundbreaking on the field.
The Miami Open moves to its new home at Hard Rock Stadium in 2019.
Williams, who's also a limited partner of the Dolphins, laughed when she recalled her initial reaction, pointing out she wasn't alone.
"I thought Steve was crazy too, for the record," Williams said. "I'm thinking, how are we going to get the right facilities, the correct amount of courts for the players? How is it going to work at Hard Rock Stadium? But Steve is a visionary. He always has a plan, always thinking out of the box. It's such a great idea when I look at the photos and how it's going to be. It's really exciting."
For Ross, who grew up in Miami, the idea of putting the Miami Open at Hard Rock Stadium began taking shape once reports surfaced that the tournament would be leaving Key Biscayne.
Several cities expressed interest in hosting the event, but Ross was intent on keeping it in South Florida.
"The main objective was to make Miami the sports capital and bring great events to Miami," Ross said. "We have all this land and I figured there had to be a way to do it. We got the designers involved. I don't think you can have a venue like this. It's going to be like no other.
"I love Miami first. And I love sports. And I want to bring the great events to South Florida. We have a huge capital investment and you want to make the most use out of it. It's great for South Florida. I recognize having grown up here the importance of these type of events, what it does for Miami."
Event organizers presented illustrations of what Hard Rock Stadium will look like at this time next year when 96 men and 96 women will compete in the singles draw in one of the only two-week tournaments on the ATP and WTA calendars.
The move to Hard Rock Stadium will provide several improvements for players and spectators alike.
• General admission parking space will increase from 2,500 to 5,166.
• On-site courts will increase from 21 to 30.
• Practice courts will go from nine to 18.
• Courts with Tour Standard lighting will increase from six to 20, allowing for more evening matches.
• Total on-site seating capacity will go from 25,062 to 32,474.
• Seating capacity will increase for the grandstand court, as well as Court 1 and Court 2.
• Players will have greater dining space, gym space, locker room space and lounge space.
The plan is to make the Miami Open about more than tennis, though, with all sorts of activities planned for the stadium grounds during the tournament.
Construction began last month on what will be permanent courts all around the stadium.
It was a day Mark Shapiro, co-president of IMG, the organizer of the Miami Open, wasn't sure would come once he realized Key Biscayne no longer might be a viable home for the tournament.
"In walked through the door Stephen Ross, a titan of industry, a bold innovator, truly a big thinker, a big-vision guy," Shapiro said. "When you combine that team (that runs the tournament) with Stephen's team, you get what will be a new light, a new beginning for the Miami Open. We're talking a picture, a footprint that is really unimaginable, filled with music, and arts, and culinary, culture, all for families. It'll be much, much more than just tennis. And every aspect of the tournament will be improved and enhanced — for the media, for the players, for the fans, for sports fans everywhere and for our advertisers and sponsors. It will truly be magnificent."
For Hard Rock Stadium, the Miami Open will be the latest addition to the world-class events that already have taken place, such as the El Clasico Miami soccer matchup between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona last summer, a concert by famed Irish band U2, and others to come such as Super Bowl LIV in 2020, the World Cup preparation soccer match between Peru and Croatia on Friday, and a concert featuring Beyoncé and Jay-Z on Aug. 31.
"(The Miami Open) helps us deliver on the promise of a global entertainment destination," Dolphins President, EO and Co-Chair Tom Garfinkel said. "We've had El Clasico, U2 and now the tennis center. You start talking about the luxury experience we're going to have here for tennis, I think it becomes a destination tennis tournament for people from around the world to come have an experience that they might not have somewhere else because of the luxury seats that are gong to go around the court, being here in Miami, which is obviously a great place to come visit in March. We're hoping that it becomes a real destination for tennis fans and people that love great events."