The iconic tennis stadium where the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan once rocked may soon have music in it’s halls again.
In an effort to raise funds to restore the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, club administrators and neighborhood preservationists are hoping to bring concerts back to the stadium that once held the US Open.
“Basically, the West Side Tennis Club is closely exploring the concept of reintroducing concerts to the venue,” Michael Perlman, the chairman of the Rego-Forest Preservation Council, said.
Perlman, who has been meeting regularly with tennis club President Roland Meier, said that the concerts will help fund a gradual restoration to the stadium, which was declared by the Landmarks Preservation Commission as being too costly to return to landmark status.
But local residents have complained that reinventing the tennis club as an entertainment venue will lead to unwanted crowds, garbage and noise.
Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) has said in the past she would scrutinize any plan that would mean loud crowds, parking concerns or excess garbage. Due to Passover, Koslowitz was unable to comment.
Perlman assured that the WSTC had the neighborhood’s best interest at heart.
“Meier said that perhaps the first year there would only be one or two concerts and then it would gradually go up from there,” Perlman said. “He was assuring me that it wouldn’t be disruptive to the community and, for the first time in the history of the club, the board is interested in reaching out to the neighboring community.”
Perlman also said only musical acts that “abide with the integrity of the club and the neighborhood,” such as classical music, would be invited to perform.
For years, the WSTC has been searching through proposals to find a good fit for the old stadium. In the past, offers have included turning the venue into a condominium but Bob Ingersole, the tennis director at the WSTC, said remaining a tennis club is of the upmost importance.
“We’d like to become a real force in the tennis community,” he said. “We need to make the stadium a place that is much more viable and the concerts will be a very small part of the club. We are first and foremost a tennis club.”
In the summer, to promote the WSTC’s 100th year in Forest Hills, the venue will host the first NY Open, from July 4 to July 7. The invitational tournament will feature 16 male and 16 female singles players and 18 men’s and 18 women’s doubles teams. Perlman and Ingersole both say there are plans to make it an annual tradition.
In addition to the concerts and the NY Open, Perlman said he hopes to fundraise with the WSTC to speed up the process and get the stadium up and running as soon as possible.
“I’m feeling more optimistic as the weeks go on,” Perlman said. “Engineering tests were recently done and concluded that the structure is sound, despite claims that it wasn’t. And the price for restoration was exaggerated during the 2010 and 2011 meetings. I feel confident though and I am very interested in helping WSTC generate additional revenue.”