Canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic last April, the Volvo Car Open tennis tournament plans to return to action in 2021, tournament director Bob Moran says.
But it will do so without use of Volvo Car Stadium, which will undergo an extensive renovation as soon as City of Charleston permitting allows. For the 2021 tournament, the Volvo Car Open will construct a temporary stadium on the Althea Gibson Club Court, which will provide seating for up to 3,000 spectators for the WTA tournament on Daniel Island.
Work on the renovated Volvo Car Stadium should be completed by the fall of 2021, making it available when the Volvo Car Open celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2022, dating back to its days as the Family Circle Cup on Hilton Head Island.
"We are beyond excited with what this state of the art, world-class facility will become as a result of this renovation,” said Moran. “We can’t imagine a better way of celebrating our 50th year of tennis in 2022 and look forward to showing off the new facilities to our players, fans, partners and volunteers.”
The renovation of the 20-year-old Volvo Car Stadium will be funded by Ben and Kelly Navarro as a gift to the City of Charleston. Navarro, a Charleston businessman, and his wife are owners of Charleston Tennis LLC, which is the parent company of the Volvo Car Open, the stadium and the LTP Daniel Island facility. Ben Navarro bought the Volvo Car Open in 2018.
Upgrades to the stadium will include a multi-story "stage house" that will have player-wellness facilities such as premium locker rooms and physical therapy and exercise space. The building also will house media, production and food preparation areas, as well as a new VIP club level overlooking center court. The building also will be the foundation for a new permanent canopy that will provide shade for spectators and infrastructure and weather protection for concert performances.
Navarro is a tennis and music fan who first began attending the Volvo Car Open in 2004, bringing his four children to the tournament.
"I remember that we only had four seats in the stadium back then, so my youngest daughter would sit on my lap," he said. "Fifteen years later, I found myself at the Kenny Chesney concert realizing it was the best concert of my life. I knew at that moment that we had to do something special with the stadium.
“We’ve come up with a plan that maintains its intimacy while also modernizing the facility. We are excited to be working with the city to reimagine Volvo Car Stadium and create an exceptional space for locals and visitors to experience world-class entertainment in Charleston.”
Other changes to the stadium will include enclosing the corners of the upper tier to create a bowl; increasing permanent bathrooms by 130 percent; adding new premium hospitality suites; and upgrades to concession offerings. Workers also will build an elevated boardwalk underneath the stadium area's grand oaks to protect the tree's root systems.
“Ben and Kelly Navarro’s donation to fund the renovation of the Volvo Car Stadium on Daniel Island is just the latest in a long list of examples of their generosity and unwavering support of the Charleston community,” said Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg. “This renovation will dramatically enhance the experience of both players and visitors, draw in world-class performances and inspire local young athletes who are coming up through the ranks. On behalf of the citizens of Charleston, I’d like to extend my deepest gratitude to the Navarro family for this remarkable gift, and I look forward to getting started.”
Meanwhile, Moran said the 3,000-seat temporary stadium will serve the Volvo Car Open's needs for the 2021 event, set for April 3-11. It's unclear at this time how many spectators will be allowed to attend due to the pandemic. There were no spectators allowed at the U.S. Open in September, and only 1,000 spectators per day were allowed on the grounds at Roland Garros for the recent French Open in Paris.
The Volvo Car Open, the largest women's only tournament in North America, usually attracts about 90,000 spectators for the week-long event.
“We are committed to operating the Volvo Car Open in April of 2021," Moran said. "We will follow all health and safety guidelines set forth by governmental agencies at that time. As of now, our team is working as if we are moving forward with our normal preparation cycle for the tournament. With that said, we will be planning for multiple variations of what the event could be with the overarching premise that the health and safety of our fans, players, volunteers, partners and staff will be our top priority.”
Tickets for the 2021 Volvo Car Open will go on sale on Nov. 13 at volvocaropen.com.