28 September 2019

Guest blog: Lowdown on the Miami Open

Note: I have asked my lovely friend @angs2014 for permission to share her wonderful blog post on the 'new' Miami Open which changed from its longtime home in Key Biscayne to the Hard Rock Stadium in 2019. Here's Ange's great summary of her tourney experience there this year which I know will be useful for anyone considering attending. Thanks Ange!


LOWDOWN ON MIAMI OPEN
Before I get into everything, let me introduce myself a bit. My name is Angie Saint-Yl and this is my fifth consecutive year going to the Miami Open. I went for the first time in 2011 for one session (Night). Then went for the second time in 2015 for a full day. And it’s been the case for the last four years that I have gone opening weekend and go for what I deem “bonus” days depending on how the OOP shakes out. This post is in reaction to all the news and such I have heard from journalists harping on a lot of negatives and being very vague about what the tournament actually offers. Now I’m not saying I won’t talk about the negatives (there are a lot of things that need to improve for next year no doubt) but I’m also here to give insights about the host of great things the tournament brought and how this really can be a great event for years to come.


FIRST THINGS FIRST:
PARKING
Although it is a big improvement (compared to having to take a shuttle down to the site in Crandon) to have all parking on-site and within walking distance of the entrance gates, it is a major pain to have parking be so expensive.


The parking prices are as follows:
  • $40 on the day
  • $30 if you buy online 
  • $30 if you have a SunPass

The tournament was really bad about being explicit to people about the discounted price of the parking tickets and it took them forever to put a link for the parking tickets on their site. My recommendation: When they start releasing information about ticket sales and all, look for any information about the prices for parking tickets or inquire about it with an agent.


What is Sunpass you may ask? SunPass is a system used by the state of Florida for the collection of tolls you go through on many a highway here. For any Hard Rock event, it is the case that you can get $10 off your parking pass if you have a SunPass transponder. You can buy SunPass transponders at almost any store. The SunPass mini is about $5 + tax (can only be used in one car) and the big transponder (which can be transferred among multiple cars) is $20-$25 + tax. If you are going to be driving down to SoFlo from wherever you are, it would be worth your while to get a SunPass for your travels around (if you want to go down to Miami, up to the Palm Beaches, etc. when not at the tennis) and also when you leave Florida (the alternative to getting your toll collected is toll-by-plate and that will cost you a lot more than if you just loaded money on a SunPass)


It’s best if you can get to the site within the first hour or so of parking access being granted. The traffic wasn’t too crazy, it was easy for me to park, and I was able to chill and eat my breakfast before proceeding into the grounds. When I went the second Monday and Wednesday around 2ish, it was more hectic and I had to drive around for a bit before I got a spot.


In terms of the parking personnel, I really do hope they either train the personnel better or get a new group next year. The people they tasked with managing the parking lot seemed to be novices to put it mildly. There was a lot of talking going on between the workers instead of stopping traffic and letting people turn into the parking lot when I went this second Wednesday, the workers were not the best with directing me where to go and where to park, and getting out Wednesday night was pretty nightmarish. 


Moreover, there are various lot colors allocated for the parking area. The general admission lot is designated as the ORANGE LOT. When you go on Ticketmaster to buy a parking pass, this is the color lot that will come up for you. This is the cheapest lot at $30. Then there is the BLUE LOT which costs a bit more money (don’t know the exact price) but it’s really not that special. The ORANGE and BLUE lots are right next to each other and you are parking in the grass for both so. If you want to be in an actual paved lot with a designated spot, the BLACK lot is for you but it requires you to shell out even more money. I saw in a recent article that the tournament set the prices as they did because that’s what it normally is for Hard Rock events. Most of the events that happen at Hard Rock stadium are one day events. The Miami Open is a two-week event and you can’t compare apples with oranges. I really do hope they bring down the prices for parking next year because it’s ridiculous when you factor in tickets, food, any merch you want to buy, and wanting to go to the event multiple days.

Views from my BLUE parking spot area 


TICKETING
If you want to get the most bang for your buck, I always recommend to do a mini Opening Weekend Package. The package I specifically opt for is the Opening Weekend Flex Four. With this package, you are allowed to pick any four sessions of the six offered up for the Opening Weekend (Friday-Sunday). Days I have gone with mostly: Friday (Day), Saturday (Day and Night), and Sunday (Day). All the big name players will most likely be scheduled to play during the weekend so your chances of seeing a top fave of yours is high. Additionally, there is so much on tap from both tours (opening weekend is the second round action for the men, third round action for the ladies) so it really is a fabulous value. It usually goes for around $200 some and if you decide you don’t want to go one of the days (usually Sunday is the most lax schedule day of the opening weekend), you can always resell your ticket.


And something that really came to forefront this year and not so much in Key Biscayne: GROUNDS PASSES


My first day at the Miami Open this year was the first Friday on a grounds pass. Such bang for my buck. Because of the rains that had hit earlier in the week, the scheduled matches on the outside courts were LIT and there were so many people you could watch practice as well. The grounds passes vary in price (I believe the reached their peak of about 60ish dollars or so that first Friday and Saturday) but it really is worth it. I went on Stadium mostly to see Roger but really enjoyed being at one of the various outside courts. Especially when you are on Cts. 1-8, it gets to be so intimate and can really allow for some spectacular atmospheres. 

My recommendations: If you want to do a la carte tickets (for mid-part of the first week or Monday-Wednesday of the second week), do a grounds pass. If you have a big time favorite (i.e. Rog, Rafa, Serena, Juan Martin, etc.) and you see their name released for whatever day on Stadium, buy those stadium tickets early because the prices for tickets in Miami can fluctuate depending on the player.


From Roger’s practice that First Friday. Had never seen him practice at Miami until this year. The increase in the number of practice courts at the new venue has been a big plus for players and fans alike

FURTHER INFORMATION IN TERMS OF PRICE FLUCTUATIONS AND SUCH

  • Prices can go up quite substantially depending on the player
    • When it was announced that Rog was going to play day session on March 23rd, the lowest resale price for a day session ticket was around $120 + fees. And the standard ticket selling price (from the tournament) was $180 + fees. And mind you, these were seats in the 300s section.
  • If you can get a resale ticket, that’s a better deal than getting a standard ticket because the fees are going to be less. Instead of the $18 or so fee that will be tacked on with the standard ticket, the fee for resales are $5 or so
  • It is also possible to avoid fees all together and buy at the box office on site but I did see long queues for it so go for it if you have a good amount of patience (or get to the campus early)

ACCOMODATIONS AND TRANSPORT
There is an area designated for Rideshare (Uber, Lyft, etc.) on the grounds. HOWEVER, I would highly recommend renting a car and driving for however long you are here for. It’s a pain in the ass having to wait for a car to come pick you up if you are planning on going to tournament multiple days and your tab will really start getting expensive if you want to venture down to Miami Beach, the Palm Beaches, etc. It is also the case (from what I read) that the tournament does not readily provide shuttle buses anymore from their partner hotels to the site being that everybody is able to park on site now. So when you are getting things ready with your accoms and all, definitely budget for a car.


Speaking of accomodations, I would also Highly Recommend staying in the Miramar/Pembroke Pines areas if you can. It is really to get to the tournament from either of these areas (no need to get on the highway and deal with a bunch of crazies) and you can find a lot of reasonably priced Airbnbs and hotel rooms. If you want to venture out some, places like Hollywood or Fort Lauderdale aren’t too shabby either. If you’re really wanting to stay in Miami, you’ll want to book your place early because the reasonable stuff sells very quickly and prices for Airbnbs/hotels get very expensive. Also, the traffic coming up and back down from the tournament can get very crazy as well so be prepared.


ENTERING THE GROUNDS
It is the case that there is a clear bag policy in effect for entrance in the grounds. Below is the bag I got (I wanted something that would be functional on the whole not just for this tournament) but you can find a whole host of clear bags online. If you’re not going to generally bring a lot of stuff with you on the grounds, you can also get some clear baggies from the security detail/staff onsite (not sure if they charge you [if any at all]) so I just brought my own bag. And the security check wasn’t too invasive. I did put a few small snacks in my phone camera lens bag and you are allowed to one bottle (up to a liter) of water in so that’s something at least ;P




Once you go through the security line, you then self-scan yourself at one of the ticket reader setups. You are able to scan either mobile or physical tickets. After scanning, you walk around the corner and then you will officially be in the tennis campus. 




VARIOUS VIEWS ON THE GROUND

There were really a whole host of Instagram worthy spots around the grounds. This picture of me was taken near one of the biggest food and drink setups on site called Kiki On the River. As you will see in the subsequent pictures, the tournament really made a concerted effort to create a wonderfully chill and tropical environment that was a lot better than Key Biscayne IMHO




This was one of the many food and drink set ups in the area they called the West Lawn. Bluestone Lane is an Australian inspired coffee shop and cafe. They are supposed to be opening a location in the Wynwood area in the near future and their setup at the Miami Open was the first SoFlo outing. They had a variety of coffee, teas, sparkling drinks, alcoholic beverages, and food on tap. The prices ranged from $4 (for vegemite toast) to $14-$15 give or take (for the alcoholic beverages) I’ll show more of the food later on.


And the next smattering of pictures are showcasing more of that West Lawn area. I absolutely LOVED LOVED LOVED being in that area. So many setups there, lots of couches, tables, and bean bags (!!!!) you could hang with your party people at, and just overall good vibes out in that area.






The next few pictures coming up highlight courtyard type areas. Compared to the Key Biscayne site, there is a ton more space available at Hard Rock Stadium. Another nice and much needed aspect of the new venue: MUCH IMPROVED BATHROOMS (Will not miss those summer camp bathroom areas and trailer porta-potty setups they had at Crandon D:)








Was able to catch the last point of Serena’s match on the big screen TV in the main courtyard area


PRACTICE COURTS
I’m not really much of a practice court titan when I go to tournaments. I’m more for looking through the OOP and heading to the first match court that peaks my interest the most when I get on site. For the first time in all my years of going to the Miami Open, I carved out a good chunk of time to watch what was going on at the practice courts. As I mentioned previously, I had never seen a live Roger practice session in Miami because he wouldn’t readily practice on site in Crandon Park besides the light hits he would have on Stadium when he would arrive here. Bar a couple days or so (because of rain and to give his body an extra bit of rest), he was on the practice schedule almost every day. And that was the case with a good amount of other players as well. The amount of practice courts available on the Hard Rock campus is double the amount of what was present at Crandon park. And the thing I love most: All the practice courts are concentrated in one general area. I don’t have to run 10 corners to watch a player practice anymore. I can see a whole smattering of players in front of me and can view others practicing (or playing matches) from the top of the stands at the practice courts.

Denis Bb and Bops

Rog Babe

Petra

Sloane

Views from one row of the practice court area

One pet peeve of mine with the practice area: You see that empty, black paved part in between the courts in this picture? Only media can occupy that area. Fans are not allowed to be there. That’s another thing I hope that changes for next year because if you are not able to get a seat in the stands (due to a big name player practicing on one of those courts, you either have to deal with being squished on the steps of whatever court you are trying to watch said player, stand in an open platform type area and try to get of glimpse of the action, or try to watch what you can of them through the fences located under the bleachers.


For the Denis/Bops picture: I was squished on the stairs for a good while and had to contour my body some to see the practice sesh and get some snaps.


For the purple shirt/teal short Rog picture: I was standing in the open platform area. Still had to improvise my height some to get pictures but was finally able to get myself to the front of the area and snap better pictures


For the second Rog, Petra, and Sloane snaps, I was seated in the top row of Ct. 26


Said open platform area



Always good to have friends with you especially when waiting for a certain 37-year-old Dweeb ;P :*

ACTUAL MATCHES
I went for a total of five days and I saw great matches all five days.
It’s a good day anytime I see Roger but the draw of both sides really did offer up a lot of interesting matchups. As far as quantity of good shit happening, I would have to say Friday was the best day but finals Sunday was probably my most favorite day of the tournament because Rog ended up being the victor <3 Going to show a smattering of pictures I took at the various matches I saw below.

Kenin vs Bibi Fave on Ct 2

King Flexxxxxx against Marton on Ct 8

Marton (or Marti as the Hungarian lady next to me called him) against Flexxxx on Ct 8

Sloane vs Jabeur on Grandstand

Dom vs. Hubi on Grandstand

Simona serving it up against Taylor Townsend on Ct 1

Taylor Townsend ripping a forehand against Simona on Ct 1

Denis Bb and Bops talking strategy in their dubs match against Sitak/Krajicek on Ct 2

Su-Wei serving it up en route to a 3-set win over Naomi on Stadium

That awkward bit of sun did make for pretty pictures yet :PPP. Rog against Radu on Stadium

Denis Bb vs Rublev on Grandstand

Bob Bryan serving to Nicolas Jarry in the super breaker of Butch Buchholz Court

Rog looking cool and relaxed as you’d like on Finals Sunday

SOME WORDS ABOUT BEING ON STADIUM


It was the case that I mostly went on Stadium for Rog’s matches. The view from my seat was good (was in section 347, Row 2) but I much prefer to be watching matches on the outside courts. I thought Rog was losing it some when he said it but it really is the case that you can hear a bit of a buzz around the stadium when sitting in the temporary setup. Because the temporary part isn’t fully enclosed, the amount of people walking by (whether it is to come in and find their seats, exiting to the grounds, etc.) creates a residual type noise. The other bad thing about the temporary setup not being fully enclosed is the fact that it creates a lot of obstructed view seats in the lower sections. Who wants to sit somewhere that is close to the court yet has an obstructed view? Nobody. And that camera angles continually showing those empty seats isn’t the best publicity for the tournament either. I hope either next year or in the coming years, they can develop a way to enclose the temporary structure more for better optics and to create even more of an intimate and great experience for the fans.


Recommendations for seating:
  • If you are going to sit in the 300s section, try to sit in sections 345-347 and get a seat within the first 10 rows of the sections. When you start going beyond the 10th row or so, the court does start to feel quite far away.
  • If you are going to sit in the 200s sections, try to sit in sections 201-202 or 215-216. Great views and you are pretty much going to be in the shade. There were quite a few days where the FL sun was brutal so to be shielded from the sun’s wrath while watching your favorite is a blessing!

Vee vs. Simona on Stadium. View from Section 215

SOME WORDS ABOUT THE OUTSIDE COURTS


Ct 1 and Ct 2: Both of these courts are situated close to the highway. I heard some cars racing by while watching Bibi Fave during Day Session of Friday so I would just be aware that there could be an extra bit of noise from the highway at peak driving hours


Ct 8: There are a bunch of bar and food setups up around the grounds and there happens to be a Stella Artois beer garden setup near Ct 8. Found it amazing John Millman nor Federico Delbonis didn’t complain about the music but Marton Fucsovics did complain to the umpire about the music blaring from the speakers at said setup. And it really was blasting. I know the tournament wants to keep fans and patrons alike entertained but they also have to remember that these players have to be able to focus well too. After that day, they did keep the music to a reasonable level the other days when I was there so they learned quick ;D


An overall fact about the outside match courts: There was basically a queue to get in every where. Grandstand and Butch Buchholz weren’t too bad because those are still sizable stadiums. Courts 1-8 though are smaller and not everyone can be put on the bigger courts so be prepared to queue at some point.

  • Example: I had to wait 30 minutes or so to watch the Flexxxxx/Marton match on Ct 8. Was worth it in the end because it was a greatly contested match and Marton was cracking me up. But the length of that wait (((((((:


EATS TIME!
**The prices reflected for all the food and drink on site have taxes included in the price**


As I have alluded to some throughout, there are an increased amount of food and drink setups at the new venue compared to the venue at Key Biscayne. There isn’t a whole lot of great places to eat the Miami Gardens area so the tournament made a concerted effort to bring some of the best of Miami to the venue at Hard Rock Stadium. They had Mexican, Peruvian, Italian, Mediterranean/Greek, Argentinian, American, French, etc. The cheapest thing I bought on site that was good and nicely filling was a slice of pepperoni pizza from one of the food trucks. A slice of cheese or pepperoni pizza from said food truck was $6.


Best cheap dish that I found that was very filling: A Chicken Chalupa platter from one of the Mexican food trucks. $13 for two chalupas with your choice of meat, toppings, and chips.


Place I went to most: Bourbon Steak. The food here was a bit pricer ($16 for a steak Caesar salad and $14 for a steak sandwich) but it was good quality steak served. Flavor was great, good tenderness, and that Caesar dressing was heavenly. I’m not a super Caesar dressing girl but I would totally buy a bottle of their Caesar if I could!



Pro tip: My friend Tracy got the Caesar Salad in the evening around 7ish or so and they gave her a lot more steak so keep that the stands may be more generous later in the day!

One instance where I was happy the sky opened up. I had a fair amount of time to eat this sandwich before the Rog/Daniil match started


Didn’t get a picture of them but I can confirm that the fries and falafel from Bourbon Steak are yummy as well


Bluestone Lane at night on the first Saturday


I could have opted for one of their coffee martinis or other libations to celebrate Rog’s hard fought win against Albot. Ended up not doing that though so I would feel a little less wrecked the next morning XP Was on-site until 1:40 AM Sunday morning ((((((:


I actually preferred the cappuccino over the flat white from Bluestone but everyone's a little different :P


TWO THINGS YOU MUST TRY FROM BLUESTONE THOUGH



AVO TOAST (Believe it was $11 or so but they don’t skimp on the smash avo and the bread is DELISH)


This is one half of the toast mind you!
S/O to my girl Allison for bringing this to the practice courts for me! <3333



THE VEGEMITE TOAST ($4)



As someone who was really apprehensive about eating Vegemite, I’m here to tell you it’s worth trying! Good salty, savory bite to it! And to have it on that wonderful bread once more *two thumbs up*


AND
Great job to the tournament on the signature drink this year: 
THE MO SMASH ($10)


I think I had the drink four times over the course of my time at the tournament. Easy to drink, very refreshing, and such a beautiful color as well. Being that it was the signature drink of the tournament, you could get yourself one at the vast majority of bar setups on site


AND THAT’S ALL FOLKS!
Super fun five days at the Miami Open. Excited to see what the future years are going to bring and I hope what I detailed here gave you a better idea of what the tournament is like/has to offer!


Social handles: Twitter (@angs2014), Instagram (@ang1305; @donutqueen2020)
Thanks so much for reading! :DDD

Guest blog: Lowdown on the Miami Open

Note: I have asked my lovely friend  @angs2014 for permission to share her wonderful blog post on the 'new' Miami Open which chang...