At last year’s US Open, the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center debuted a spectacular retractable roof on its Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“I would say it succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations,” says Danny Zausner, the center’s COO. “We had to use it a number of times. If not for the roof, the men’s final would’ve been played on a Monday night.”
He drifts back to the opening night demonstration: “When (the roof) closed, the crowd cheered like it was a rock star.”
This year’s Open — which kicks off with Arthur Ashe Kids Day on Aug. 26, with play beginning Aug. 28 and concluding Sept. 10 — may not have anything as overtly stunning to offer. But Zausner and company have some new innovations that fans should find just as pleasing. This week, he and his team are putting the finishing touches on the temporary Louis Armstrong Stadium in Parking Lot B of the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park site in Flushing, Queens, while the new stadium, complete with a retractable roof, is under construction. But don’t expect the temporary “Louie” — as the stadium is affectionately known — to be a slapdash affair.
“It’s the No. 2 show court at the center,” Zausner says. “Its look and feel will be anything but makeshift.”
The temporary Louis Armstrong Stadium will seat 8,500. The new one, with more than 14,000 seats, debuts next year.
While fans might not notice a big difference between the old and temporary stadiums, staffers surely will. Zausner says the old stadium held offices for ball persons, umpires and food service and merchandise employees. Those have been relocated to other areas of the center. (The administrative offices of the United States Tennis Association are located in White Plains.)
It’s all part of a more than $600 million transformation that includes not only the Arthur Ashe’s retractable roof but the new Grandstand Stadium and a revamped Southern Campus that has added a greener, more spacious feel.
“A big checkbox for us is shade and open space,” Zausner adds.
New features this year include a new ticket office at the east end of the site as well as new food vendors and celebrity chefs — too premature for him to discuss.
Still, it’s not too early to look ahead. Zausner says 2018-19 will see a new broadcast compound and retooled player dining, lounge and fitness areas.
Promises Zausner: “It will be a haven for players second to none.”
And will the center then be finished?
“It’s never the end,” Zausner says with a laugh. “Our board is always enticed by any of our ideas. On the grounds, we’re always trying to build on our success.”
For more, visit usopen.org.