US Open: New Digs
The U.S. Open kicked off with an announcement of a major face lift. August 17th, the USTA unveiled a 5-year renovation project for the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and they were promoting it again in the first days of the tournament. The Louis Armstrong and Grandstand stadiums will be completely reconstructed, new practice courts will be added with viewing galleries for the public, and the walkways will be enlarged. But the centerpiece of the new look will be the construction of a retractable roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Holding approximately 23,000 people, Ashe is the largest tennis stadium in the world, and putting a roof over it requires a major feat of engineering. According to Matt Rosseti , the principal of the Rosseti firm, whose remodeling vision was selected from several by the USTA, the challenge lies in placing a roof over a stadium not initially designed to accommodate one coupled with the terrible soil conditions in Flushing, Queens. These challenges are what precluded the USTA from commissioning a retractable roof sooner, whereas such roofs have been built over Center Court in Wimbledon and Rod Laver Arena at the Australian Open.
The USTA and Rosseti group estimate that the total cost of the project will be in the $550 million range, down from what they initially thought. Even with a significant price reduction, it's easy to see why many are wondering if a roof over Arthur Ashe is worth that much.
A roof would ensure that the tournament would always finish on the second Sunday, and secure a spot on primetime network television which has not been the case over the last three years. One set of night matches has already been postponed two days into the tournament and play has been halted on Day 3.
Is it worth it? In this economy it's sometimes difficult to justify such a large sticker price for athletic complexes. But the National Tenni Center, according to the USTA, generates $750 million in revenue for the city and in the two weeks,the Open raises roughly the same amount as the Mets and Yankees do in one season. Gordon Smith, Executive Director for the USTA, said that the renovation program will also be used to help develop American tennis, which has lagged on the pro stage for the last 5 years.
The roof on Arthur Ashe could be completed as early as the 2017 Open and no later than the 2018 deadline.
Listen below for details from the press conference from the sources themselves: Dave Haggerty, USTA Chairman of the Board, Gordon Smith, USTA Executive Director, Danny Zausner, COO, USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Matt Rossetti, principal of ROSSETTI, designer of roof.