The five-year overhaul, which started in 2013 and will be finalized by the 2018 U.S. Open, includes building a new Louis Armstrong Stadium, adding a retractable roof to Arthur Ashe Stadium and remaking the Grandstand Stadium and the center’s South Campus. All told, the project will cost north of $600 million.
Daniel Zausner, COO of the United States Tennis Association (USTA)’s National Tennis Center, said over the last five years almost all of the center’s structures have been renovated.
“Ninety percent of the grounds have either seen a roof put over it or completely built from scratch,” Zausner said.
Construction for what the USTA calls the “strategic transformation” of the National Tennis Center started in fall 2013, when they began working on Arthur Ashe Stadium’s retractable roof. Workers continued the work through 2014 and 2015.
A fully functional roof is expected to debut at this year’s U.S. Open, which is scheduled to start at the end of August.
Zausner said a lot of work went into not just the outside, but also the interior structures of the stadium. Workers are putting the finishing touches on the new sound system and air conditioning, and they also tore out the old power system and built a new substation, which will power the retractable roof.
“A lot of people think of the project as just about the roof opening and closing, but there are so many other pieces to it,” Zausner said. “It’s so much more than just two big pieces of steel opening and closing.”
In fall 2014, the USTA began construction on the new Grandstand Stadium. A week before Christmas that year, most of the steel skeleton of the stadium was already in place. By February 2015, the seating was already underway.
Zausner said they got a head start on that project because it didn’t impact operations for the U.S. Open. This project is slated for completion by this year’s U.S. Open.
The new Grandstand Stadium will have 8,000 seats, which is about 2,000 more than the current one. It will also provide a shade canopy for about two-thirds of the stadium, an especially important amenity for viewers, Zausner said.
“There are going to be a lot of people happy that they’re not getting direct sunlight the entire day,” he said. “It’s really, really starting to come together.”
The Grandstand will also have a new broadcast booth, new video screens, new concession stands and an expanded, 25-foot-wide concourse. The previous concourse was six feet wide and couldn’t even fit a golf cart, Zausner said.
USTA is also rebuilding the center’s South Campus, which includes ten tennis courts and fan amenities. The project started last October and is expected to be ready by this year’s tournament.
The premise of this project, Zausner said, is to extend the courts by sliding them 30 feet out to the south and creating a bigger gap between the northern and southern courts.
“This project, to us, is as significant as anything we’re doing because it’s changing a big part of everyone’s experience with the Open,” he said. “Everyone loves to be out on the field court during the first eight or nine days of the tournament to be so close to the action.”
Infrastructure improvements include a lot of underground work, including new broadcast cables, audio and visual features, and power for the court lights. The renovation also adds six new concession stands and more retail options.
The last part of the overhaul is the construction of the new Louis Armstrong Stadium.
The current stadium, which holds 10,103 people and was around before Arthur Ashe Stadium, will be demolished after the 2016 U.S. Open. This fall also signals the beginning of construction for its replacement.
“Our premise is that we’re going to build a new Louis Armstrong in the same footprint,” Zausner said.
The new stadium will seat 14,000 people split between the upper and lower levels. It will include a retractable roof and plenty of shade.
But one aspect the new stadiums will keep is intimacy. Zausner said the fans love how close they are to the court.
“We feel very strongly that the design for both of these stadiums will achieve that,” he said.
The new Louis Armstrong Stadium is expected to open by the 2018 U.S. Open. Because it takes two years to build the new one, Zausner said the USTA will erect a temporary stadium in the parking lot for the 2017 tournament. That building will hold about 8,500 people.
Zausner said the overhaul will bring as many as 10,000 more seats to the National Tennis Center, adding to the already 700,000 tennis fans who attend the U.S. Open every year.
“We sell out virtually all of our sessions,” he said. “Ninety-nine percent of our tickets get sold, so there’s clearly a demand.”