U.S. Open offers new feature this year: free cellphone-charging stations

U.S. Open attendees power their cell phones at

U.S. Open attendees power their cell phones at a charging station at the 2014 U.S. Open tennis tournament on Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014. (Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke)

The U.S. Open has a promising solution to one of modern life's irksome challenges: the dying cellphone battery.

Charging stations have popped up at this year's tennis tournament, where users can plug in their cellphone and lock it in its own cubbyhole with a password, sparing fans the choice between having juice and watching tennis. It's the first year the charging stations have been offered at the U.S. Open, United States Tennis Association officials said.

The stations proved to be a popular attraction on Sunday, with a steady stream of fans, ball boys and players dropping off or picking up their cellphones.

"It's a great system," said Pooja Khetani, 31, of Hoboken after plugging in her iPhone and walking away. Hovering near hallway outlets, her previous solution to a dying battery, she said, was "terrible."

The system works like this: Those in need of a cellphone charge open one of the lockers by entering a four-digit code that they make up. After plugging the phone in, the user locks the door. It is opened later with the user's code.

Some users hovered near the charging station, like parents who had just dropped their kids off with a robot baby-sitter and aren't sure yet if it's completely trustworthy.

Alberto Ortiz, 47, of Flushing said he was a little nervous about theft. But he grabbed a bite to eat and decided, "I love it."

The charges are free -- not an unremarkable thing at the U.S. Open, where a bottle of water and a grilled cheese sandwich cost $20.

"You don't see too many things that are free here," said Cheryl King of Atlanta, who was waiting for her husband's cellphone to charge.

Not that the new system always worked perfectly.

Vilma Guam, 18, of Jackson Heights said she has used the charging station every day since Friday, when she started working at a store at the U.S. Open. On Sunday she dropped off her phone in the morning. But in the afternoon, she couldn't remember the password. She suspected she had hit an errant key when getting jostled while punching in her code. Plus, she has long red fingernails.

"I blame it on the nails," she said with a forced laugh.

She asked a U.S. Open employee for help, a technician who opened the locker. The worker called Guam's phone to verify it was hers. And then Guam went on her way with a charged phone.

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