New Owner Ben Navarro Arrives with Passion, Vision for Tournament
By: Nick McCarvel
Ben Navarro grew up in a football family, on the sidelines of Princeton University games as his father, Frank, coached season after season. It wasn’t until his mid-20s that he discovered the sport of tennis, both as a player and a fan.
It was then that Navarro – in his own words – fell in love with the sport.
“For me, tennis is such a beautiful mix of artistry and athleticism, which is what spurred my passion for it,” Navarro said in an interview. “I play – not incredibly well – and I know how hard it is. Seeing the pros do it and playing myself, it really helps me appreciate it all.”
Passion for the sport is a large part of what spurred Navarro, a local businessman and founder of the non-profit Meeting Street Schools, to purchase the Volvo Car Open in September. His other motive? Navarro aims to keep the storied event local for a long, long time, while also giving a broader community the chance to share in its excitement.
“This tournament is truly one of the highlights of the year in Charleston,” Navarro explained. “I have been a devoted fan since we first moved our family here fifteen years ago. It’s a chance to see all the top female players right here in our own hometown.”
Asked about the staff behind the scenes, Navarro raved, “Bob Moran and his team have created this incredible atmosphere.” And that atmosphere is something Navarro wants to build on at the Family Circle Tennis Center. This year’s tournament, which runs from March 30 to April 7, will feature world famous Lowcountry cuisine, a first-ever gospel brunch, and an immersive yoga experience led by local guru Sarah Frick.
Navarro envisions the Tennis Center becoming a must-see for locals and visitors alike. “My primary overall goal for this facility is that – for its size – it becomes the premier place to enjoy an event in the Southeast, whether that be a tennis tournament, a concert or a festival of some sort.” To that end, Navarro and his team have already attracted top stars Dave Matthews (April 20), Kenny Chesney (April 25) and Kacey Musgraves (Sept. 20) to this year’s lineup.
“I’m very excited to bring world-class talent into the arena” Navarro explained. “In the not-too-distant future, fans can expect to see improvements to the stadium commensurate with its status as a world class venue.”
In addition to bringing the “best of the best” in women’s tennis to the Volvo Car Open each year, Navarro also intends to open up the tournament to more of the community... including Meeting Street Schools teachers, students and other patrons who might not otherwise be able to attend such a global event.
“We are going to bend over backwards to help get kids from our schools to the Volvo Car Open, and to attract a variety of people from around the community to share the experience with us,” Navarro said.
It’s no small side-note that Navarro shares his contagious enthusiasm for tennis with his four children as well. In fact, his daughter Emma ranks among the world’s top 25 junior players, and she recently reached the finals of junior doubles at the Australian Open. The seventeen- year-old Navarro will play in this week’s Volvo Car Open singles main draw on Tuesday, April 2, having earned a wild card into the event last July as the winner of the USTA National Girls 18 Clay Court Championships at LTP Tennis.
Success – and now tennis – runs in the Navarro family. And the Volvo Car Open is now poised to remain part of the greater Charleston family, just as it should.