NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — After years of U.S. Open weather woes, the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens is ready to serve up some major changes.
As CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reported Wednesday, engineers have finally figured out how to mount a retractable roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium – the main venue for the U.S. Open. It is considered an overhead smash against Mother Nature.
“It’s a great idea,” said tennis coach Izo Zunic. “It’s going to help the tournament to be on schedule.”
For the last five years, rain has pushed the U.S. Open final from Sunday to Monday.
“The players are very upset about the finals’ being postponed to Monday. They have Davis Cup the next week — that’s interfered there. The fans are unhappy,” said Dan Kaplan of SportsBusinessDaily.com.
“Very frustrating,” added tennis fan David Chia. “You want to see the final, it’s postponed ‘til Monday, Tuesday. It’s bad.”
The obvious solution is to design and build a retractable roof over center court, but as recently as last summer the United States Tennis Association said putting a roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium was an engineering impossibility and couldn’t be done.
The USTA said the stadium was built on swampland and could sink under the weight of a roof. But Kaplan said the organization has figured out a fix.
“What they’re planning to do is rip out a lot of the very heavy seating in the upper decks,” he said. “That will reduce the weight.
The roof plan is part of a major facelift for the tennis center. In addition, Louis Armstrong Stadium will be torn down and rebuilt, and the grandstand court will be moved to a new location, officials said.
Further, a double-deck viewing area will be constructed so fans can watch players practice.
But the development is not without critics, since it encroaches on an acre or so of parkland.
“No more expansion onto parkland – period,” said state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Queens). “This is it. This is the end.”
Full details of the plan will be announced Thursday. As part of the deal, the USTA will fund $10 million in improvements to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.
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