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Entertainment options proposed for Delray Tennis Center

The organizers of several tennis tournaments at the Delray Beach Tennis stadium are dreaming big — so big they want the city to give up part of its ownership to build a new stadium with retractable roof that could accommodate more tournaments, concerts and other events.

"It would have to be torn down," Mark Baron, tournament director for the International Tennis Championships, said of the Tennis Center and Stadium on Atlantic Avenue just west of Swinton Avenue. "The first step is to see what could be built there."

Baron gave a presentation to the City Commission at its workshop meeting Tuesday where he outlined negotiations with Palm Beach County, the state and organizations such as the Palm Beach County Sports Commission and the Tourist Development Council that could bring a new state-of-the-art, 7,500-seat facility where the tennis stadium now sits.

"I have never seen anything more drastic than when a stadium is built that is multiuse," Baron said. "One of the great things a multiuse stadium would bring here is economic impact."

The city has struggled for years to book events other than tennis tournaments at the stadium because it is not configured to host concerts or shows. The city also spends about $1.5 million a year sponsoring events such as the ATP World Tour and ATP Champions Tour, in addition to operating expenses.

The agreements the city has with the tournament organizers make the city responsible for cleanup, security, prize money and maintaining the center to ATP standards.

Delray Beach officials have said they see the expense as an opportunity to expose the city to hundreds of thousands of potential TV viewers, welcome thousands of visitors and recover some of the money spent sponsoring events during the past 12 years.

Baron said a retractable roof is a must along with skyboxes that could bring corporate sponsors.

"There are a few things that must happen, and the No. 1 thing is a retractable roof," Baron said. "No promoter is going to put up the amount of dollars needed to fill a stadium if there are chances of rain."

The presentations left a lot of questions unanswered, such as who would pay for construction — between $35 million and $55 million, according to Baron — or where the city would relocate the adjacent Community Center and who would pay for that.

Baron, however, said the city wouldn't have to spend a dime to build the new stadium.

City officials seemed pleased with the effort and encouraged Baron to continue negotiations.

"I'm just really so excited about what you're doing and that Delray Beach has been declared a sports destination," said Commissioner Angeleta Gray. "I do believe the tennis center could be an anchor for not only development around the stadium but on the West Atlantic Avenue corridor." or 561-243-6544

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