SBD/June 15, 2012/Facilities

USTA's Announced Renovation Of National Tennis Center Lacks Plans For Roof

Overhaul will alleviate fan congestion and allow for an additional 10,000 fans per day
U.S. Open tennis officials will “let a $500-million expansion plan be their umbrella for the foreseeable future, unveiling a strategic vision that includes a new Grandstand, enlarged No. 2 court and more open space at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center,” according to John Jeansonne of NEWSDAY. But the “six-to-eight-year project, with construction targeted to begin in the fall of 2013, does not contain what many observers long have believed to be the must-have amenity for any modern-day sports facility.” USTA Exec Dir & COO Gordon Smith on Thursday said, "The obvious question that will come is, 'What about a roof?' We simply do not have a roof design that works at this time." Smith said that the “search for a solution will go on.” The USTA will “go ahead with ‘pretty much a complete overhaul’ of the grounds that Smith said would alleviate spectator congestion and allow for bringing in an additional 10,000 fans a day for the two-week tournament, which has been drawing more than 700,000 in recent years” (NEWSDAY, 6/15). The AP’s Ralph Russo noted the “construction will be done in phases with the final phase involving the rebuilding of Armstrong Stadium.” The USTA “expects that to begin after the 2016 or 2017 tournament and be ready for use the following year.” Smith declined to “put a price tag on the renovations, but said the organization is looking at spending hundreds of millions.” USTA Managing Dir of National Tennis Center Facility Operations Danny Zausner said that it will “take about a year to get approval from New York City because it involves acquiring three-quarters of an acre of land owned by the city.” N.Y. Mayor Michael Bloomberg “supports the plan.” The renovation calls for: 
  • The 6,000-seat Grandstand adjacent to Louis Armstrong Stadium to be relocated
  • Seven tournament courts moved to create more room for spectators to get about the grounds
  • Armstrong Stadium rebuilt and expanded from 10,000 seats to 15,000
  • New practice courts with viewing areas for fans 
  • Expanded parking garages (AP, 6/14). 

RAISE THE ROOF: 
In N.Y., Naila-Jean Meyers wrote the reaction to the announcement of a renovation “focused on what the project does not include: a roof.” The N.Y. Times’ Christopher Clarey yesterday on Twitter wrote, “Ultimately, US Open's big mistake was building Ashe without roof in 1997 when Aus Open already had roofed stadium. Lack of vision #tennis." N.Y. Times blogger Craig O'Shannessy wrote: "the first and last dollar should/must be spent on an indoor arena. That's as obvious as the nose in the middle of your face..." (NYTIMES.com, 6/14). TENNIS.com’s Pete Bodo wrote, “This roof thing has taken on a life of its own, and for that reason you really have to feel for the USTA. The greater the fever, the more Ashe stadium is bound to be regarded somewhat contemptuously as a white elephant, a too-big-to-fail edifice that has a solid quarter-century of use left, but cannot be kitted out with a roof under any plan known to the USTA. Or any plan that makes sense at all levels.” It is “not just a matter of keeping up with the joneses; in fact, you can argue that biting the bullet on the outcry for a roof demonstrates that the USTA isn't just following the trend.” The USTA also has “resisted becoming Ashe-centric, which is not just a good thing for fans in general, but also for the tournament as a whole” (TENNIS.com, 6/14).
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