It’s game, set and nearly match for the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
The USTA tooted its horn on Thursday with a media tour of the newly rebuilt Louis Armstrong Stadium, the final piece of a dramatic five-year transformation of the tennis center, home of the U.S. Open.
“It is on time, on budget and completed with no public funding,” said Katrina Adams, board chairman and president of the USTA. “It’s a second stage that is second to none.”
The New Louie sports 14,000 seats, a retractable roof, massive concourses, food courts on two levels and considerably more restrooms and will be naturally ventilated, without the need for mechanical air-conditioning when the roof is closed. When it rains, about 40,000 people will be able to watch tennis under the closed roofs of Arthur Ashe and Armstrong stadiums.
The New Louie is also giving the USTA the opportunity to schedule a second ticketed night session. Three matches will be scheduled during the day and two at night, starting at 7 p.m. Some 6,600 seats in Armstrong’s lower bowl will be reserved, and 7,400 seats in the upper bowl will be general admission. That includes any general grounds pass, which is good for the entire day and night.
Plans for the tennis center’s transformation were announced in 2013. In 2014 the new west stadium courts and seated practice area were opened. In 2015 the support system for the Arthur Ashe roof was in place, followed by the roof itself in 2016, along with the new Grandstand in the southwest corner and a total rebuild of the south campus courts. In 2017 the New Louie construction was underway, with a temporary replacement stadium built on adjoining property. Now the New Louie will make its debut the last week of August for this year’s Open.
The price tag: $600 million for the entire project, including $200 million for Armstrong.
“Over the last four years, 2.8 million people came through our gates while we stopped construction for a month,” said Danny Zausner, chief operating officer of the tennis center. “We had to have [the construction partners] understand that we had to have a phase of this project done by Aug. 1 each year. They got their entire teams to understand the importance of the U.S. Open, that the fan experience in 2014, ’15, ’16 and ’17 was no different than the year before, and even better. That’s what we delivered each and every year.”
The old Armstrong was full of history, but was virtually devoid of the modern aspects of the fan experience.
Now there are two large entrances, coupled with the massive concourses, that should alleviate the long lines that once stretched outside the old stadium. Once inside, there is plenty of room to roam and watch tennis while casually strolling the concourse. Not to mention much more shade.
When Armstrong opens in August, it will be the crown jewel of the 50th United States Open.
Stadium Nuts & Bolts
Seating capacity: 14,000
Weight of roof panels: 284,000 pounds each
Total area: 94,500 square feet
Roof speed: 25 feet per minute
Size of roof opening: 38,160 square feet
Ventilation louvres: 14,250
Miles of louvres: 13.5