It’s six months until the start of the 2016 US Open – and it’s promising to be unlike any other event in the world.
The third phase of a sweeping transformation of the US Open grounds began the day after the 2015 tournament concluded, and more than 200 workers have been on site almost every day since. The USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, home to the US Open, is virtually unrecognizable from when the tournament wrapped up last summer, but construction crews are ensuring that the US Open will not only live up to, but surpass, its promise to redefine spectacular.
“This is going to be a US Open unlike any other. It’s going to be US Open that everyone will want to come to,” said USTA Chief Operating Officer Gordon Smith. “We have a new movable roof on Arthur Ashe stadium, we’ve got a new Grandstand with 8,000 of the best seats to watch tennis from anywhere in the world, and we’ve transformed the entire grounds. This is a tournament that no one in New York is going to want to miss.”
The construction project can generally be categorized in three parts: (1) the addition of a retractable roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium; (2) the construction of a new Grandstand stadium (pictured above); and (3) the complete renovation of the south campus and field courts.
All five steel sections of the retractable roof on the west side of Arthur Ashe Stadium are now in place, and two-fifths of the steelwork on the eastern side of the stadium are in position. In addition, all of the air conditioning units are ready, duct work around the top of the stadium is progressing and all the shade covering for the roof is in place on the south side. The remainder of the fabric will be added over the west, east and north sides in the coming weeks, with the west section of the roof moved toward the center of the court for the first time in early March.
“It will always be a race to the finish, but I’m confident we will finish,” said National Tennis Center Chief Operating Officer Danny Zausner. “In August of 2013 we had a press conference announcing about the strategic transformation for the site. It’s pretty exciting to see that less than 13 months later, with six months to go, we are well on target to do and accomplish everything we talked about just two-and-a-half years ago.”
In the south campus, all of the steelwork is in place for Courts 7 and 11, which will hold 1,500 fans each, and for Courts 10 and 13, which will accommodate an additional 800 spectators. The restrooms, concession areas and retail buildings will be built in the coming months, with a new 450-foot long, 40-foot wide walkway connecting Court 17 and the new Grandstand. Once those are in place, new bleacher seating will be added to the sides and ends of the field courts, increasing the capacity to watch matches on these courts – as well as drawing further traffic from the walkways and better distributing crowds throughout the grounds.
During the 2015 US Open, about 30 percent of the steel was in place for the new Grandstand, which will draw traffic away from the east gate. Now, every piece of steel is erected on-site, the whole bowl is in place and the entire framework for the steps is ready. The new stadium, the third show court at the 2016 US Open, will hold 8,000 fans, up from 6,000 in the old Grandstand. The old Grandstand will be demolished after the 2016 tournament along with the current Louis Armstrong Stadium, making way for a new Louis Armstrong Stadium that will debut in 2018.
Within the new Grandstand, masonry walls are being built for bathrooms, first aid rooms, guest services and food concession stands, and fans can already see the shape of the 360-degree bowl that will encircle the stadium. Sections of a fabric canopy are already in place over the walkway, providing more shade for spectators, who will be able to walk around the upper bowl to look over the adjoining Courts 4, 5 and 6.
“If we were in April right now and the weather was milder, we’d be installing seats as we speak, but we pushed that out a couple months until we get milder weather,” Zausner said. “There's really no reason to be installing seats in the middle of wintertime.”
He added, in many ways summing up the transformation so far, “It’s incredible progress, but still much work to go on.”
US Open Transformation at a Glance
Here's an overview of what fans can expect over the next three years: