USTA unveils plans renovation of US Open Tennis Center

Tonight, “Nadal’s News’” Twitter page (an unofficial Rafael Nadal fan Twitter page) states: “Totally don’t understand destroying and rebuilding the best stadium at the US Open.” Fans of the number one player in the world have a point.

If Paris still has not decided the fate of Roland Garros, in America the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center is making a few decisions that will bring some changes to the US Open. The United States Tennis Association has approved a sweeping overhaul of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center that will include tearing down and replacing Louis Armstrong Stadium and building two mini-stadiums.

As reported by the current Louis Armstrong and much-loved Grandstand stadiums will eventually be demolished. The new Louis Armstrong Stadium, the facility’s No. 2 court, will not have a roof built immediately, but will be “roof-ready.” Construction will begin immediately on a 3000-seat mini stadium, which will be built next to the hospitality building on the property’s southeast corner. That mini-stadium may or may not be ready for the 2011 U.S. Open, but will be ready for 2012.

The demolition of Louis Armstrong and Grandstand stadiums will not begin immediately, but will be carried out in the next 6-8 years. The entire operation cost is around $300 million, and we all know how often any project like this adheres to its initial timeline.

Let’s hope that the new stadiums are designed as well (or better) than the present ones. Although I purchase Arthur Ashe Stadium tickets for the day sessions at the US Open, I prefer to view the game from almost any vantage point in the two smaller stadiums. The crowd at Ashe is disconnected from the game through distance and a general acceptance of improper spectator behavior. Maybe I’m just sentimental; after all, some of the best tennis matches in my US Open memory bank were played at Armstrong or the Grandstand. The first one that comes to mind was last year’s inspiring and nail-biting Day Five match between American Ryan Harrison against Ukraine’s Sergiy Stakhovsky (see photo at left). I can still hear the crowd giving love to the rising American tennis star with chants of “Let’s Go Ryan, clap-clap-clapclapclap!”

At present, Armstrong Stadium seats 10,200 spectators. The replacement would contain between 12,000 and 14,000. The Grandstand Stadium, which currently accommodates 6,100 spectators, would be replaced by a stadium seating at least 7,000. It will likely be built near the same location. Still to be determined is the fate of the Arthur Ashe stadium, which would be covered with a roof. The problem is that the current structure could not support the weight of that modernization.

Greg Victor

Greg Victor (Parcbench Culture Editor) covers the worlds of tennis and country music for Parcbench. Based in New York City and frequently on the road.

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