SBJ/July 15-21, 2013/Facilities

USTA seeks Ashe stadium roof by 2016 in RFQ

The U.S. Tennis Association has established a potential timeline that calls for building an operable roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium by August 2016, one year earlier than past estimates.

The schedule is part of a request for qualification for owner representative services issued by the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and obtained by SportsBusiness Journal.

The timeline, all of which is “subject to change,” according to the RFQ, covers multiple projects tied to a five-year plan covering the replacement of Grandstand Stadium and Louis Armstrong Stadium by 2018, as well as the roof project and other infrastructure improvements.

Last year, the National Tennis Center released details on a $500 million renovation that did not include a roof, with the caveat that the group would study the roof option. Earlier this year, reports had the USTA setting its sights on having a roof in place by 2017.

The RFQ, issued June 12, provides concrete evidence for how serious the National Tennis Center is about expediting the roof project, an improvement that would resolve weather issues that have plagued the U.S. Open over the past five years.

To date, the projects must be approved by both New York city and state officials with financing in hand before construction can begin. At this time, the renovations are not funded, said Danny Zausner, the National Tennis Center’s chief operating officer.

Rossetti, the USTA’s architect, has been studying multiple options for how to build a roof structure without putting too much pressure on the foundation of the 22,547-seat stadium, which opened in 1997.

The roof project is moving through the initial phase of design, as stated in the RFQ. There are no dollar figures listed in the document for how much the roof would cost.

“Could it be done by 2016?” USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier said. “We don’t have a [final] design as of this moment. But we are going to push as hard as we can. We want to have a roof.”

There are two schemes under consideration, according to an addendum to the RFQ responding to a vendor’s question about the roof. The roof material would be composed of a fabric called PTFE, short for polytetrafluoroethylene, the addendum said. It is similar to the translucent roof planned for the Minnesota Vikings’ new stadium in downtown Minneapolis.

Unlike the Vikings’ fixed roof design, though, the USTA’s proposed roof would be a movable structure covering the playing area with a fixed portion over some seating, the addendum said.

It has been a complicated process to come up with a sensible roof solution, sources familiar with the situation said.
“They’re having trouble making the numbers work,” one source said. “It gets very expensive, and steel is heavy. It’s like an amoeba — you push in one thing and something goes out the other side.”

Getting an owner’s representative on board will assist the USTA in making those difficult decisions, Zausner said.
The owner’s representative will report to Zausner and Chuck Jettmar, the National Tennis Center’s director of capital projects and engineering. It will serve as the program manager for all projects, including daily, on-site management and the facilitation of communications between the tennis center and project vendors, the RFQ said. Among other responsibilities, the owner’s representative will assess the validity of cost estimates, analyze delivery methods with the NTC and make recommendations based on project goals and objectives.

Eight companies responded to the RFQ for an owner’s representative. A formal proposal will be issued Wednesday, and a selection is expected to be made in mid-August.

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