The United States Tennis Association announced plans for a sweeping transformation of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, including a new Louis Armstrong Stadium, a new Grandstand, wider walkways and improved traffic flow around the complex and a retractable roof over the grounds' showpiece, Arthur Ashe Stadium.
"This transformation will make the U.S. Open more accessible to more fans, creating a spectacular facility that will mirror the energy and excitement of New York and provide an enhanced player and fan experience," USTA chairman, president and CEO Dave Haggerty said during a news conference Thursday to announce the plans. "When all the pieces are in place, the National Tennis Center will be among the most fan-friendly, technologically advanced facilities in the world of sports -- a leader for the 21st century and beyond."
The total cost is estimated at $550 million, including the retractable roof, which is estimated in excess of $100 million. The USTA, as it has done in the past, will self-finance the entire cost of the improvements through a combination of bonds and USTA revenue generation.
The retractable roof will be constructed of flexible, translucent fabric stretched over a steel frame that will be supported by eight steel columns surrounding the stadium.
In addition to the roof over Ashe, the key pieces of the transformation are building a new Armstrong Stadium in its current location; razing the current Grandstand Court and shifting its location from the northeast corner to the southwest corner of the Tennis Center to better distribute fan traffic throughout the facility; and moving some of the field courts further south in order to create a wider pedestrian walkway that will connect the new Grandstand to Court 17, which is located in the southeast corner of the grounds.
Construction will begin at the conclusion of the 2013 U.S. Open, with the completion of the retractable roof for Ashe scheduled for Aug. 2017 and the goal for the overall completion of the project slated for 2018. The first stadium to be completed will be the Grandstand in 2015.
Once the transformation is complete, the grounds will be able to accommodate an additional 10,000 fans per day, which would increase the overall annual attendance by approximately 100,000.
"The U.S. Open is a world-class event that demands a world-class venue, and we're going to transform the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center for the fans," said Gordon Smith, USTA executive director and chief operating officer. "We're really proud to be a good neighbor of the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, the borough of Queens and the City of New York, delivering over $750 million in economic impact each year to this city, our home.
"To sum it up, it's great for everyone involved, and it's great for tennis."
The 2013 U.S. Open will commence Aug. 26.