Thursday, August 22, 2013

Retractable Roof to Be Constructed Over Tennis Stadium

After years of U.S. Open weather woes, the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is ready to serve up some major changes. Engineers have finally figured out how to mount a state-of–the-art retractable roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium – the main venue for the U.S. Open. It is considered an overhead smash against Mother Nature. For the last five years, rain has pushed the U.S. Open final from Sunday to Monday. Plans also call for 2 new stadiums where fans can view practice courts. Construction work is expected to last until 2018.

After years of rained-out US Open finals, the players are very upset about the finals’ being postponed. They have the Davis Cup tournament the next week, and that is interfered with. Fans are also unhappy and frustrated. You want to see the final, and then it’s postponed until Monday or Tuesday.

In recent years, ticket holders have been disappointed that the men’s singles US Open finals, won by Novak Djokovic in 2011, and last year by Andy Murray, were rained out, pushing the matches to Monday.

The obvious solution is to design and build a retractable roof over center courts.

The USTA commissioned a series of roof studies over the last 10 years to find a workable design, but as recently as last summer the y said putting a roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium was an engineering impossibility, and couldn’t be done.

The difficulty in building a roof, which would span five times further than the roof over Wimbledon’s Centre Court, focuses on weight. The 22,500-seat stadium, the largest tennis arena in the world, is built on swampland which experts said could sink under the additional weight of a massive roof.

But engineers now have a fix.

What they’re planning to do is take out a lot of the very heavy seating in the upper decks to reduce the weight. The rain shield will be made of a special kind of fabric and supported by eight steel supports surrounding the stadium  In the event of rain, the 400-ton retractable panels will take about five to seven minutes to shut, according to USTA officials.

The new roof -- an estimated $100 million addition to Arthur Ashe Stadium -- is part of a major facelift for the tennis center and will ensure that things run smoothly in the future. In addition, Louis Armstrong Stadium will be torn down and rebuilt, and the grandstand court will be moved to a new location. Further, a double-deck viewing area will be constructed so fans can watch players practice.

The $550 million renovation project – which the USTA is undertaking at its own expense –will feature two new stadiums and be built in three phases.

Phase 1 will commence after this year’s Open and will also include shifting a series of practice and tournament courts to allow for more viewing platforms and the construction of additional nets.

The second phase of the renovations will feature a new 8,000 Grandstand Stadium in the southwest corner of the property along with relocating some of the field courts and the construction of a new food court and merchandise locations, according to the association.

Lastly, the third phase of the project will involve the construction of the 15,000-seat Louis Armstrong Stadium.

Construction work is expected to last until 2018.

But the development is not without critics, since it encroaches on an acre or so of parkland, so as part of the deal, the USTA will fund $10 million in improvements to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

The Tennis Association has agreed to provide $350,000 for each of the next three years to seed the conservancy, followed by $200,000 annually for 20 years.

That is in addition to the $400,000 a year it pays in rent. The remaining $5 million will go toward funding capital projects.

The Tennis Association has also agreed to host an annual Queens Day, a celebration of local cultures; an annual job fair for Queens residents; as well as school programs and a giveaway of 5,000 free tickets for local youth to the Arthur Ashe Kids Day. There will also be an outreach campaign to try and bring Queens eateries, businesses and vendors into the U.S. Open, which occupies the National Tennis Center each summer.
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