Pro tennis makes a comeback at iconic stadium
by Michael Perlman
Feb 23, 2016 | 7141 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
US Open 1977 at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium 35 mm slide
US Open 1977 at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium 35 mm slide
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Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in 1923, Courtesy of the West Side Tennis Club
Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in 1923, Courtesy of the West Side Tennis Club
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1968 US Open Tennis Championship
1968 US Open Tennis Championship
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Billie Jean King US Open Tennis Wire Photo at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium from 1971
Billie Jean King US Open Tennis Wire Photo at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium from 1971
slideshow
A milestone for the West Side Tennis Club and the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium was achieved in 2013, when the iconic-but-long dormant stadium underwent restoration work and a rebirth as a concert venue that hosted Mumford & Sons.

It recalled the days of the Forest Hills Music Festival, predominantly held during the 1960s and 1970s and featuring the likes of Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, and Bob Dylan.

Now the club’s integral role in tennis history will have a new chapter. On February 17, Mylan World TeamTennis announced the formation of New York Empire, a franchise that will debut this summer at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium.

“Excitement, enthusiasm, and a historic moment are some of the words members have used to express their feelings,” said Angela Martin, president of the West Side Tennis Club. “One of our junior players is thrilled that he will be able to see Andy Roddick play. There is also a great deal of conjecture about who the other players will be, not only on the New York Empire team, but other teams as well.”

Mylan World TeamTennis is a leader in professional team tennis competition, and features some of the world’s best players. The 2016 regular season will run from July 31 to August 13 and conclude with the Mylan World TeamTennis Finals on August 27.

The season will consist of six teams in competition for the King Trophy, which was named after its co-founder, Billie Jean King.

Former world number one Andy Roddick was signed as a marquee player, and ESPN commentator and former tour player Patrick McEnroe will serve as a coach.

“As both a player and an owner, I have always enjoyed all that encompasses Mylan World TeamTennis,” said Roddick in a statement. “To be able to play on the legendary courts at Forest Hills and be involved with a team in a city that I love will make this even more special.”

The initial contract, negotiated by former director Bob Ingersole and a committee comprised of David Duff, Carl Koerner, and Jon Knipe, will stand for three years.

The WSTC holds high expectations for this summer and the future of the club and its stadium.

“Not only for our club’s young members, but several generations have not had opportunities to witness pro tennis at the stadium,” Martin said. “In addition, tennis lovers will have unique opportunities to see matches.”

The stadium was designed in 1923 by Kenneth Murchison. It was the first concrete tennis stadium in America and the site of several historic firsts. Tennis was a segregated sport until racial barriers were broken in Forest Hills, when Althea Gibson became the first African American to win a US National tennis title in 1957, and Arthur Ashe became the first African American male to win the US Open title in 1968.

The stadium was also the birthplace of the US Open, where Billie Jean King played the first “open” match in 1968. In 1977, the final US Open was played at the stadium, and when it relocated to Flushing Meadows Corona Park, some spectators claimed that the stadium’s glory days were over.

In 2010, the stadium came close to demolition, until a plan to sell the site for a condo development was rejected.

At the time of the WSTC’s 100th anniversary in the spring of 2013, past president Roland Meier eyed a mix between quality tennis events, ice hockey in the winter, and concerts consisting of classical and modern music.

“Opportunities have arisen and will continue to surface for future uses of the stadium,” Martin said.

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