USTA President Harry Marmion, standing, and Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe join former...

USTA President Harry Marmion, standing, and Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe join former Mayor David N. Dinkins at the dedication of Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing Meadows. (Feb. 19, 1997) Credit: Newsday / Viorel Florescu

This story was originally published in Newsday on February 20, 1997.

More than 20 years after Arthur Ashe made a name for himself at the U.S. Open, the stadium that will be the tennis tournament's new home now bears his name.

At an emotional news conference yesterday in Manhattan, U.S. Tennis Association president Harry Marmion dedicated the 23,500-seat facility, which is scheduled to be completed before the tournament begins in August.

"Arthur Ashe was a great humanitarian and a great role model who worked tirelessly to help the USTA promote the growth and development of tennis," Marmion said, choking back tears.

Ashe's widow, Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, attended the news conference along with Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Queens Borough President Claire Shulman.

The stadium will be the centerpiece of the largest public tennis facility in the United States, the USTA National Tennis Center, Marmion said. For 11 months a year, the stadium will be open to public use.

Moutoussamy-Ashe said she was "elated" by the tribute. She said she viewed the dedication as a present honoring her 20th wedding anniversary, which would have been today.

"Arthur would have been extremely proud of this because he was committed to the USTA and their efforts to get minority youngsters involved in tennis," Moutoussamy-Ashe said.

Former Mayor David Dinkins, a close friend of Ashe and an avid tennis fan, said in a telephone interview he had hoped the USTA would name the stadium after Ashe. Dinkins said Ashe was not only a fine player but also a spokesman for tennis and champion of civil rights.

Located opposite the Louis Armstrong Stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, the new stadium will co-host the U.S. Open. The tournament has been held at the Louis Armstrong Stadium since 1978, after the competition outgrew Forest Hills Stadium.

Ashe was born in Virginia, but his name became forever associated with New York in 1975 when he became the first black player to win the U.S. Open men's championship. That year, the Davis Cup star also was the first black to win the Wimbledon men's title.

A soft-spoken advocate of civil rights, Ashe also helped form the Junior Tennis Association and the Safe Passage Foundation, both vehicles for helping children's involvement in tennis.

When Ashe discovered he had contracted the AIDS virus though a blood transfusion, he established the Arthur Ashe Foundation for the Defeat of AIDS.

He died from AIDS-related pneumonia in 1993.

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