The US Open will be evolving in several ways in the coming years, with some of the changes to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center coming as early as the 2014 US Open.
In less than five years’ time, all construction will be wrapped and the Open will be transformed. Rain should never again push a singles final off course thanks to a roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium, and the atmosphere of the two other feature stadiums – a rebuilt Louis Armstrong Stadium and a redesigned Grandstand – will live on, putting fans closer to the action while offering superior sightlines.
According to US Open Chief Professional Tennis Officer David Brewer, the site’s proposed metamorphosis has been met with excitement from everyone involved – particularly the players.
“It’s the most energized tennis event in the world, and we’re amplifying that sense of action and wonder,” said Brewer. “You can’t get any better than New York City. All of the things that we’re putting into place right now will allow the players to be a little more comfortable, make their lives a little more sustainable during their time here as they come out to practice or play.”
“This is really exciting news for anyone who loves tennis,” added Roger Federer, who won an unprecedented five consecutive US Open men’s singles titles from 2004 to 2008. “It’ll be even more amazing with the addition of the new stadiums, the roof and all the other changes that are planned. As a fan as well as a player, I can’t wait to see it.”
The chief change on the minds of players and fans is the retractable roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium, scheduled to be ready for 2016: a 200,000-square-foot steel-and-Teflon marvel composed of two 400-ton gliding panels when closed. The tournament policy is expected to be that Arthur Ashe Stadium will only be covered for rain, not for any other circumstance. The summer heat and the swirling winds, to Brewer, are all part of what make matches between the elites intense and inherently New York.
“The fact that we will have a roof means greater certainty with scheduling, but we’re an outdoor event first and foremost,” he said. “The thing about the US Open – really, all the four Grand Slam events, but especially here in the U.S. – is that it’s such a virtuous cycle: if we do something positive for the players, their performances are a little bit stronger. The fans in turn like that and rev up their reactions, which the players feed on. It goes up and up and up.”
The first element of the US Open’s strategic transformation will be unveiled this year – a new, two-story viewing gallery that will allow 1,000-plus fans to watch the practice courts as well as the remodeled Courts 4, 5 and 6. (See below for a strategic transformation timeline.)
Previously, the practice courts were open for viewing only on one side, meaning fans would strain to see who was warming up on the courts farthest from view. This lapse in the guest experience was not lost on Brewer, who noticed a rise in larger, wide-open practice areas at ATP & WTA events in recent years and supported the idea of a viewing gallery, or the players, who have become increasingly accustomed to interacting with fans and making them part of the action.
“As an American, I’ve always had a special relationship with the US Open,” said two-time defending women’s singles champion Serena Williams. “To see the changes that are coming is really exciting for me. It’ll be awesome to see all the fans by the practice courts and to maybe be one of the first players to play under the roof in Arthur Ashe Stadium. This is the greatest tournament in the world, and these changes will make sure it remains that way for years to come.”
And with that begins the multifold challenge for Brewer and company in the years ahead. The US Open’s strategic transformation is an endeavor that is both familiar and new: to create the best experience for the sport’s top players from the time they get in their cars to come to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, all while cultivating an electric environment that everyone on the grounds can feel – the epicenter of the tennis world.
“The US Open has always been so much about New York City, and New York is always changing and evolving, getting bigger and better,” said Maria Sharapova, the 2006 US Open women’s singles champion. “It’s great to see that the US Open is doing the same thing.”
CURRENT STRATEGIC TRANSFORMATION TIMELINE OF COMPLETION:
For 2014 US Open: Three new courts – Nos. 4, 5 and 6 – plus five new practice courts built in the northwest area of the grounds, along with a 30-foot, two-story viewing gallery for fans.
For 2015 US Open: Parts of the south campus expanded to alleviate traffic on the grounds. These widened walkways will eventually connect Court 17 to the new Grandstand.
For 2016 US Open: A roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium complete and operational; new Grandstand stadium debuts; 10 rebuilt field courts; further remodeling of the south campus.
For 2018 US Open: New Louis Armstrong Stadium debuts.