Officials from the U.S. Tennis Association are making sure it doesn’t rain on their parade in the future with the announcement last week that a retractable roof will be built over Arthur Ashe Stadium.
During a Manhattan press conference last Thursday, Dave Haggerty, USTA chairman, CEO and president, revealed that a $100 million roof, covered with a translucent teflon-coated fabric over a steel frame will be supported by eight steel columns and is expected to be ready for the 2017 US Open.
In addition, a new Louis Armstrong Stadium that will be constructed in 2018 also will have a retractable roof.
Matt Rossetti, president of Rossetti Architects, who designed the roofs, said they will open and close in five to seven minutes. “This engineering solution mitigates risk and creates a beautiful structure,” he said.
The USTA for years has been looking for a solution to prevent rain from delaying the US Open. For the past five years, the men’s finals have been held over for a day due to poor weather conditions.
Gordon Smith, executive director and chief operating officer of the USTA, said the Arthur Ashe Stadium, built 16 years ago, was not designed for a retractable roof “and the land around it is abysmal,” pointing to the wet conditions of the ground.
Haggerty called it a long and arduous process but “we feel that we now have a design that meets the criteria of being architecturally sound, aesthetically pleasing, reasonably affordable and buildable.”
In June 2012, the USTA announced a $500 million project to update and revitalize the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows Park. It did not mention the retractable roofs.
Phase 1 calls for starting work on the Arthur Ashe Stadium roof, shifting existing practice courts and two tournament courts to the north.
The second phase of work will include constructing a new 8,000-seat Grandstand Stadium in the southwest quadrant of the center. The plan also calls for moving some field courts south and creating a larger pedestrian esplanade.
Phase 3 involves building the new 15,000-seat Armstrong Stadium, adding 5,000 more seats than the current facility. The original stadium was built for the 1964 World’s Fair as the Singer Bowl and used for U.S. Olympic trials, sports demonstrations and folk festivals.
The redevelopment will allow 10,000 more people to attend events at the US Open, held for two weeks every August and September. The plan includes the addition of three-quarters of an acre of parkland to the 42-acre site. That has already been approved by the City Council.
The USTA will self-finance the project through bonds and its own revenue.
Smith said construction equipment and gear will be situated on USTA property and will not impinge upon the park.
“We recognize there are many known and certainly many unknown hurdles we will have to confront to meet this schedule,” he said. “We are ready for the challenge and hope we can achieve it,” he added.
Officials pointed out that the US Open is the city’s largest annual public sporting event and attendance regularly tops 700,000.