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Big changes at Billie Jean King National Tennis Center

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On Monday, Feb. 29, 2016, the USTA gave a tour of the construction progress at Arthur Ashe Stadium, stating that a retractable roof will be in place for the 2016 U.S. Open which, in case of rain, will be able to close in 5-7 minutes so that play can resume. (Credit: Patrick McCarthy)

It would be easy to say that the transformation of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows was the roof, the whole roof and nothing but the roof.

But the half-billion-dollar project is considerably more than putting a retractable roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium. On Monday, six months from this year’s tournament, which begins Aug. 29, the USTA conducted a walk-through of the massive undertaking, and fans are likely to be awed when they enter the grounds this year.

Yes, the roof will be completed and ready for use, assuring the players, the fans and the television partners that play will be completed every day on the feature court and that the tournament, after five straight years of weather-related Monday finishes beginning in 2008, will be completed on Sunday.

Yet there will be so much more. The new 8,000-seat Grandstand will be put into play. The entire south campus, composed of 10 field courts, was demolished and is being completely rebuilt with a wide spectator boulevard connecting the new Grandstand to Court 17. The site plan calls for far greater open space, far greater shade, more restrooms and a new food court near the Grandstand that will take pressure off the concession lines at the present food court on the east side of the property.

“This is going to be a U.S. Open unlike any other,” said Gordon Smith, the USTA’s chief operating officer. “It’s going to be a U.S. Open that everybody’s going to want to come to. Why is that? We’ve got a new movable roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium. We’ve got a new Grandstand with 8,000 of the best seats to watch tennis anywhere in the world. We’ve transformed the entire grounds. It will be better for fans, it will be better for players.”

Danny Zausner is the chief operating officer of the tennis center and the man overseeing the project. Like Smith, he cites the fan experience as paramount. “What we heard from the fans more than anything is that they wanted open space and shade, and that’s what we are offering,” Zausner said.

After this year’s tournament, work will begin to reinvent Louis Armstrong Stadium to expand seating to 14,000 and provide another roofed court. That project is scheduled to be completed in 2018. A temporary 8,500-seat stadium will be used in 2017.

New York Sports