Madison House Presents, which is about to coordinate another concert season at Forest Hills Stadium, is considering a proposal to bring a “winter wonderland” carnival to the stadium, including ice-skating and holiday vendors.
“We have been dreaming about this general idea for years, and now there are a number of options that we are working on,” said concert manager Mike Luba, who works closely with Jason Brandt, the stadium’s general manager. “When the concepts are more fully developed, we will present the ideas to the board of the West Side Tennis Club (WSTC), and they will let us know if we have the approval to move forward.”
Although an official proposal has yet to be submitted, there are hopes it will materialize in time for next winter.
“As the WSTC has been a great partner on the stadium restoration and renovation,” said Luba. “I am hopeful that they will continue to be supportive of ideas which are not only good for the WSTC, but for the neighborhood and Queens.
“The stadium and its grounds are magic, pure and simple, and we are always dreaming of events that will hopefully boost the quality of life for those who get to experience them,” he added.
There are also plans to include a novelty “Grand Slam Automat” feature, a spinoff of the nostalgic Horn & Hardart Automat branches, which served an average of 800,000 patrons daily at 180 self-service cafeterias throughout New York and Philadelphia.
Forest Hills was once home to smaller-scale Horn & Hardart Retail Shops near the stadium at 71-63 Austin Street and 116-63 Queens Boulevard, and the firm’s vice president, Frank Hardart, Jr, resided at 188 Ascan Avenue and 64 Dartmouth Street in Forest Hills Gardens.
“People always ask me about bringing back the Automat, as it held a special place in their heart and our country’s history, and it sounds like Forest Hills Stadium’s installation of Automat windows would be a beautiful tribute,” said Marianne Hardart, great-granddaughter of H&H Automat co-founder Frank Hardart.
“Those little windows sparked the imagination of diners of all ages, getting a handful of nickels from a thrower and then going to the windows to pick your food,” she continued. “It was an adventure especially for children, and was also a place that tore down barriers based on class, gender, or race, as it welcomed everyone.”
Bill Sullivan serves as Forest Hills Stadium creative director, designing logos, media materials, and banners. He praised stadium architect and past WSTC member Kenneth Murchison as a Renaissance man.
“Murchison had a theatrical vision with a pageantry to celebrate the tennis match and created a planned experience,” said Sullivan, who is also the author of the book “Forest Hills.” “Every year it changed into a slightly new form, and my book is about the element of change within the stadium’s horseshoe.”
There are also plans to add new gender-inclusive permanent restrooms on the main concourse to minimize wait time.
“A new scoreboard would celebrate tennis and music’s past,” added Sullivan.
Sullivan patronized one of the last Automats on West 57th Street. In Forest Hills, concertgoers would be able to “pick, swipe, and take” hot and cold sandwiches from the Grand Slam Automat’s compartments.
“We are trying to integrate the quality and streamlined aesthetics of a very American experience,” he said.
At the public’s request, there are also plans to add new gender-inclusive permanent restrooms on the main concourse, which will minimize wait time for a more enjoyable concert experience.
Some upcoming events at the stadium include Robert Plant & The Sensational Space Shifters on June 13, Roger Daltrey performing The Who’s “Tommy” with The New York Pops on June 17, David Byrne on September 15, and the first-ever food festival on October 6.
This year, radio station WFUV will host the “FUV Clubhouse” to broadcast select shows live on air. A full list of event can be found at foresthillsstadium.com.
“Jason [Brandt] often talks about ‘creating discoverable experiences,’ and we always want people to think there’s something new and interesting around the corner in Forest Hills,” said Sullivan. “We are the caretakers of this cathedral of American tennis and music, which is unlike any place in the world.”