Elaine Bruening to retire as CEO of Western & Southern Open Cincinnati after four decades

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From volunteer to CEO, Elaine Bruening’s four-decade career guided exponential growth of one of Cincinnati’s largest annual sporting event that draws international attention every August in Cincinnati.

Under Bruening’s guidance, the event has grown to attract nearly 200,000 annual attendees, more than double the 98,000 that attended in 1987. Last year’s event saw 14 of the 16 sessions sell out. Fans come from all 50 states and over 35 countries annually, and the event is viewed in more than 160 countries worldwide.

Starting as a volunteer in 1976, Bruening assumed a full-time role with the event in 1988 after a career at Procter & Gamble. She worked alongside longtime Tournament Director Paul Flory for more than 35 years and was officially elevated to CEO in 2011. At the time of her retirement this month, Bruening is the only female CEO of a Master 1000 level event on the ATP World Tour. Bruening also was the first female to be appointed to the men’s tennis ATP Media Finance Committee, a role she will relinquish upon retirement.

"It has been my life's joy to witness the growth of this great event. But I cannot take all the credit,” remarked Bruening. “I have to acknowledge the work of the staff and volunteers, who have tirelessly dedicated their efforts toward making our event better and who have worked side-by-side with me as we fulfill the vision that Paul Flory set for Cincinnati."

"Elaine was a one-of-a-kind leader in the sport of tennis and we will miss her steady hand," said Katrina Adams, USTA Chairman of the Board and President. "Her hard-work, creativity and perseverance elevated the Western & Southern Open into a world-class sporting event."

A number of improvements to the Lindner Family Tennis Center were championed by Bruening during her tenure. From 2010 – 2012 she oversaw a $23 million, three-phase expansion to ready the venue to accommodate a combined men’s and women’s event. The first phase included the 52,000 square foot Paul Flory Player Center housing player facilities including locker rooms, training rooms, dining, gym and a lounge. The following year, 2011, saw the grounds increase by nearly 20 percent with the addition of six new courts, including the 3,500-seat Stadium 3. The final phase in 2012 added a food court and entertainment plaza with two permanent bars, greenspace and room for 14 restaurants.

Elaine was also heavily involved in the current construction project at the Lindner Family Tennis Center – the $25 million structure at the south end of the 11,750 seat Center Court. The 104-foot-tall, 40,000 square foot building is uniquely wedged in between Center Court and Grandstand Court (capacity 5,000), the two largest courts at the venue. Each floor lends views of both courts. The building includes innovative indoor air-conditioned box seats behind glass and a brand-new broadcast facility.  

During her tenure, prize money went from $100,000 in 1976 to over $8 million in 2018. For decades, Cincinnati was a men’s only event, until Elaine helped successfully orchestrate the addition of a women’s WTA event in 2004. The tournament then combined both events into the same week in 2011 at the time of the facility expansion. Bruening was instrumental in managing the partnership between the event and the title sponsor, Western & Southern Financial Group. The relationship, which began in 2002, remains the longest-running title sponsor/tournament partnerships of all the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events. 

Alex ReillyPROFILES