A $500 million project is planned to update and revitalize the U.S. Tennis Association’s Bille Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows Park with two new stadiums and two parking garages.
Mayor Bloomberg announced the changes Thursday at a breakfast meeting of the Queens Chamber of Commerce at the Laguardia Marriott Hotel in East Elmhurst. Bloomberg said it would allow 10,000 more people a day to attend events at the USTA’s U.S. Open, held for two weeks in August and September.
“The U.S. Open is one of the city’s greatest sporting events and it generates more than $750 million a year in economic activity,” he said. “The city recognizes the crucial need to improve the facility and supports this vision ...”
The project, which is expected to be carried out over an eight-year period and will be paid for by the USTA, will have to go through the city’s land use review process. Work is not expected to begin until fall 2013.
The biggest change will be the demolition of the Louis Armstrong Stadium, at the northeast corner of the property, to be replaced by a larger stadium holding 15,000 seats, 5,0000 more than now. It was built for the 1964 World’s Fair as the Singer Bowl and used for U.S. Olympic trials, sports demonstrations and folk festivals.
Plans also call to demolish the 6,000-seat grandstand next to the Louis Armstrong Stadium. It was also built as part of the Singer Bowl. A replacement grandstand with 8,000 seats will be built in the southeast corner of the property.
Under the proposal, the transportation center and the northwest parking lot, with 200 spots, would be replaced with an approximately 432-space, two-level parking garage and new transportation hub. The northeast 100-space lot would be replaced with a 370-slot, three-level parking garage.
In addition, seven tournament courts would be relocated and a new walkway built and seven other courts will be replaced with five new practice courts and three new tournament ones. A new, elevated viewing platform would be constructed between the practice and tournament courts.
The 42-acre USTA site would be increased by three-quarters of an acre, according to officials, to build the new grandstand. It would take in a connector road between United Nations Avenue and Meridian Road, which runs through the leased area.
The main Arthur Ashe Stadium, where the U.S. Open finals are held, will remain.
USTA officials point out that the U.S. Open is the city’s largest annual public sporting event and attendance regularly tops 700,000.
But Chuck Apelian, vice chairman of Community Board 7, said it would have been nice if USTA officials had reached out to the board first to inform it about the major plans. CB 7 will be part of the public review process.
Greg Godfrey, president of the Flushing Meadows Corona Park World’s Fair Association, decried the destruction of the former Singer Bowl. “It’s unacceptable and outrageous,” Godfrey said. “The reason the USTA got started at Flushing Meadows was because of the Singer Bowl.”
He also opposes the tennis association’s getting more parkland, albeit a small piece. “The USTA is successful as is and they shouldn’t get additional land,” Godfrey added.