Construction continues to take place at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, home of the US Open. While crews prepare the foundations for the new Louis Armstrong Stadium, which is set to open at the 2018 tournament, work is already underway to ready the site for the temporary stadium that will take its place for 2017.
We spoke with National Tennis Center Chief Operating Officer Danny Zausner for an update as the calendar turns to spring.
USOpen.org: Now that the old Louis Armstrong Stadium has been demolished, what are the plans for the temporary stadium that will take its place for the 2017 US Open?
Danny Zausner: We’re working with a company, Seating Solutions, who will be erecting the temporary stadium late spring, early summer in Parking Lot B. There will be some preliminary work happening there in May, and the temporary setup will be starting right around June 1. In May, we’ll run utilities to the area, start erecting the court lights and start some of the underground work. There’s a slew of advance work that has to happen before we take over the parking lot 100 percent.
USOpen.org: How big is the temporary stadium going to be? And how will seating be distributed?
Zausner: The temporary stadium will hold slightly more than 8,000. It’s very intimate. There is a lower bowl for reserved seating much like the old Louis Armstrong had, then there’ll be a walk-around concourse that will separate those 2,000 seats from the other 6,000 seats. I think it’s going to be priced consistently with how Louis Armstrong has been priced in the past.
USOpen.org: How will the temporary stadium be different from a permanent arena?
The fact is, the court is the court and that’s what people are there to see. We’re trying to make it incredibly intimate and special and give the fans an experience that’s equal to if not better than what they would have experienced last year in the old Armstrong. It’s temporary from the sense that it’s only going to be there one year, but we’re going to do everything we can to make it as special as possible.
USOpen.org: How much work goes into the logistics and planning for a project like this?
Zausner: I will tell you that everyone thinks 2016 was the most complicated year we’ve had. But the juggle between the construction of the new Louis Armstrong and the design and logistics involved in putting together the plan for the temporary Louis Armstrong Stadium is far more complicated for us than all the work we did with the roof, new Grandstand and the south campus last year. You’re really trying to recreate everything about the permanent Louis Armstrong into a building that has to go up and go down in a matter of two months.
USOpen.org: Considering those difficulties, was there ever a discussion about not erecting a temporary Louis Armstrong Stadium for this one year?
Zausner: There wasn’t a meeting specifically about that. But in a meeting someone said it was complicated and asked if we could do without it for one year, and the message was that we were not going to go a year without Louis Armstrong Stadium. It’s the No. 2 court on the site and, yes, we do have a beautiful new Grandstand court, but we have loyal Louis Armstrong fans who come out every year to watch a match in that intimate setting. We’re not going to displace them.
USOpen.org: What will fans see of then new under-construction Louis Armstrong Stadium in 2017? Will it be fenced off in the same way the new Grandstand was in 2015?
Zausner: Exactly. It will be fenced off and we’ll have a mural on there. People will certainly see a fair amount of steel that will be rising up behind that fence line, but yes, it will be walled off. Right now it’s all underground. If you’re driving by on the street, you’re not seeing anything coming out of the ground. Steel is being fabricated as we speak and the first loads should be arriving on site within the next 30 days. The goal is within a couple of months that steel will begin getting erected on the footprint of the new Louis Armstrong Stadium.
USOpen.org: How will fans access the temporary stadium? And will the East Gate entrance still be in use for 2017?
Zausner: The East Gate will operate as it always has. People who came in through the East Gate and then made a bee-line to the right to get into the Grandstand and Louis Armstrong will still be making a bee-line to the right, except instead of a right diagonal, they’ll be making a 90-degree turn which will take them to the entranceway to access [the temporary] Louis Armstrong Stadium.
USOpen.org: What can people expect from the temporary stadium?
Zausner: I think people will ask why we don’t leave it up permanently because it’s going to be super cool. But we’ll say that much like people were disappointed when Grandstand went away but were elated when they saw the new Grandstand, I would tell the fans to come out and enjoy the Louis Armstrong Stadium this year and know that it’s the precursor for something pretty special that’s coming in 2018.