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Queens Chronicle

USTA expansion in Flushing Meadows Corona Park revealed

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Posted: Thursday, November 8, 2012 10:30 am | Updated: 11:36 am, Thu Nov 15, 2012.

The United States Tennis Association has begun a push to garner public support for the planned expansion of its current home in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The increase in space would require the relinquishing of just over half an acre of parkland and has been met with some consternation by members of the community.

The National Tennis Center’s upgrade, nominally dubbed a “Strategic Vision,” calls for a relocation of the current Grandstand stadium, a renovation of Louis Armstrong stadium, as well as additional courts and parking facilities. The nonprofit claims the plan would alienate a total of .68 acres of what is currently parkland along its facility’s eastern edge.

The difference between undertaking the plan and letting it go by is the possible loss of tennis stars to the USTA’s marquis event, the US Open, according to the organization’s Managing Director Daniel Zausner.

The demand for more seating and premium luxury boxes has grown alongside the sports popularity.

“While we’re not competing for events, we have to ensure ourselves that our facilities keep up,” he said.

Zausner pointed to concerns in Melbourne that bold-faced names will skip the annual Australian Open for bigger paydays in emerging Asian hubs such as Shanghai.

“It’s not inconceivable that some players will be selective about what tournaments they’ll play,” he said.

The plan has emerged alongside Major League Soccer’s proposed 25,000-seat stadium in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, a proposal that would cost the park up to 13 acres of land.

Local groups have emerged in opposition to both plans wholesale, lumping the two together in what has been deemed a sneaky machination that would not be considered in more prestigious parks in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Some members of the resulting Fairness Coalition of Queens has taken to calling the USTA’s plan an “incremental landgrab,” positing the nonprofit will continue to ask for small chunks of land in the coming decades.

It should be noted the USTA’s original footprint in the park started at 22 acres in 1978, growing to its present 42 acres in the mid-1990s.

Zausner emphasized the USTA has no intention of expanding in the future, pointing to the physical limitations of the land it currently occupies. It is flanked by roads at every side.

“The Grand Central, Unisphere, and barriers all around,” he said. “We have nowhere to go.”

The resulting additions to the facilities will add 10,000 more daily grounds passes during the US Open, a new 8,000-seat Grandstand and an entirely new 15,000-seat Louis Armstrong stadium. A modification to the area’s current parking structures will increase on-site parking capacity from 300 to 700 spots.

The parking issue has been a perpetual rallying cry for FMCP’s protectors, who claim the USTA’s marquis event leads to green areas torn apart by makeshift parking lots placed on grass fields.

Zausner acknowledged the continual concerns, but said USTA does not control where the Police Department sends cars in an effort to keep the park’s roads clear.

The plans must go through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, facing a public vetting process and vote before the City Council. Zausner is confident the plan will be approved.

“We want what’s in the best interest of the community,” he said, adding he anticipates the process to be completed by the fall of 2013.

The subsequent work will be done incrementally, around the US Open, with a completion date within seven to ten years.

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