Well, it wasn’t quite the parting of the Red Sea. But it was pretty darn close.
The USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center unveiled the new retractable roof for its Arthur Ashe Stadium Tuesday in Flushing Meadow-Corona Park, Flushing, Queens. And while not everything went off without a hitch, more than 200 invited sponsors, staffers and members of the press seemed most impressed with what is nothing short of an engineering Grand Slam.
“Oh, oh, did I feel rain?” Katrina Adams, chairman of the board and president of the White Plains-based United States Tennis Association, teased under sunny skies. “Well, guess what? It doesn’t matter now. A plan more than 10 years in the making literally comes to a close today before our eyes.”
Adams, the cover subject of last August WAG, was joined by tennis legend Billie Jean King and tennis great Arthur Ashe’s widow, Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, along with USTA Executive Director Gordon Smith, tennis center COO Danny Zausner and Matt Rossetti, president of Rossetti, the firmed that created the concrete, steel and fabric structure that cocoons the stadium, leaving a patch of blue sky the size of a football field. When it comes time to close the roof, two panels of PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) that sit atop a 6,500-ton steel superstructure move along tracks to meet in the middle at a speed of 25 feet per minute. The whole process takes less than seven minutes.
After the remarks, it was time for a demonstration. To U2’s “Beautiful Day,” the panels moved smoothly and steadily to their appointed destination. But when it came time to reopen the roof, well, let’s just say the third time was the charm. Zausner said you can expect a few glitches, particularly in the beginning. A team of engineers will be on hand for the Open, which runs Aug. 29 through Sept. 11, with Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day set for Aug. 27.
What you can also expect is a world of difference when the roof is closed. The sun beat down on attendees with the roof open. When it was closed, all was cool and comfy inside the immaculate, cheery, blue and green arena. A yellow and black butterfly flitted by. Some joked that maybe officials should keep the roof closed all the time. But hey, this is the Open. You want things to be, well, open, right?
The retractable roof is just the showstopper in a tennis center transformation that includes a new Grandstand Stadium and an expanded southern campus, bowing this season. Next up – a new Louis Armstrong Stadium, with a retractable roof of its own, slated for 2018.
After the presentation, attendees were treated to lunch and given a commemorative coin. There was a light breeze. It was indeed a beautiful day.