The United States Tennis Association (USTA) on Thursday revealed details of a major redevelopment of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center (NTC) in Flushing Meadows, New York, but the site of the US Open will remain without a roof over its showpiece courts.
The strategic vision – a series of interconnected construction projects that includes building developments, infrastructure upgrades and improvements to site circulation – aims to enhance the current conditions at the NTC and preserve its stature as a world-class venue. The USTA said the project will cost “hundreds of millions of dollars” over a multi-year period, but the hot topic remained the lack of cover over its courts.
Rain delays have caused the US Open men’s final to be played on a Monday for the past four years, increasing calls for the tournament to join the other three Grand Slam events in adding a roof on at least one main court. The Australian Open’s Melbourne Park boasts retractable roofs on two courts and plans for a third; Centre Court at Wimbledon unveiled its retractable roof in 2009; and a new centre court with a retractable roof is expected to debut at the 2017 French Open at Roland Garros. However, USTA officials maintain that logistical issues surrounding the site of the main 22,500-seat Arthur Ashe Stadium continue to prohibit the addition of a roof, and until this challenge is overcome it would not make sense to consider developing a roof over any of the other courts.
Instead, the project will focus on the construction of two new stadiums – one to replace the aging Louis Armstrong Stadium in its current location at the northeast corner of the site, and the other a brand new Grandstand Stadium, built in a different location at the southwest corner of the property. Seven tournament courts on the southern section of the site will be relocated between 30-50 feet, and a new walkway will be built to allow for easy access through the southern part of the site. Two parking garages will be constructed over existing parking lots to accommodate additional spaces, and seven courts on the northwest section – five practice and two tournament – will be replaced and linked by a new, elevated viewing platform that will provide better seating and viewing options for fans. As a direct result of the collective enhancements, the USTA anticipates the project will enable the facility to accommodate an extra 10,000 people each day during the US Open, increasing attendance by approximately 100,000 new visitors.
“Our goal remains to ensure that the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center remains a world-class facility for the top professional tennis players, for the hundreds of thousands of fans who annually attend the US Open, and, as importantly, the near hundred thousand recreational tennis players who use this facility all year round,” said Jon Vegosen, chairman and president of the USTA. “The strategic vision will enable us to achieve this goal.”
New York’s Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, added: “The US Open is one of the city’s greatest sporting events, and it generates more than $750 million a year in economic activity. The city recognises the crucial need to improve the USTA facility and supports this vision so that the center remains a top-ranked tennis venue capable of hosting the US Open and thereby allowing the tournament to remain in New York City for many decades.”