BY DANIEL ZAUSNER
“From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however makes a life.” Those profound words from the late tennis champion Arthur Ashe, which are enshrined at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center (NTC) in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, serve as a daily inspiration to us as we continue to strive to build better lives for youth in Queens through the sport of tennis.
During hundreds of annual community programs at the NTC, we host more than 100,000 participants of all ages, many of whom are from Queens. In addition, through our partnership with the New York Junior Tennis League, which was co-founded by Ashe, we have been changing the lives of children in Queens, providing them with the required tools to excel both on and off the court. The program reaches thousands of local youth annually, providing 70 public schools in Queens with free tennis equipment and direct mentoring/training opportunities for 15,000 students, as well as after-school programs.
The USTA also provides more than 5,000 free tickets to Queens-based community groups for Arthur Ashe Kids Day, which serves as the official kickoff event for the US Open Tennis Championships.
Indeed, the USTA is an active and vital member of the local Queens community, striving to develop the character of kids through tennis and education.
For nearly a century, the US Open has been held in Queens, and since 1978, it has taken place in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. The US Open and NTC – whose indoor and outdoor tennis courts are open to the public 11 months of the year – have transformed the New York City sports scene, pumping nearly $750 million a year into the local economy and showcasing to the world that Queens is the center of it all.
However, despite this success, the NTC and US Open are now at a crossroads. A facility upgrade is vital to sustain the long-term viability of the NTC as both a world class spectator venue and top public recreational facility. To this end, we have developed a plan that is mutually beneficial to the people of Queens, the US Open and the NTC.
As we visualized the scope of the plan, we understood and respected the importance of preserving the park, and as a result, our design calls for the minimal amount of additional parkland possible, just 0.68 acres, to complete the needed upgrade to the facilities at the NTC.
The sliver of land in question is mostly an existing asphalt road and the city has determined that no replacement land is required. In lieu of replacing the land, additional park improvements will be made.
It should also be noted that all of the upgrades will be financed solely by the USTA without government financial assistance.
However, this Queens jewel needs public support to move forward, as it obtains the various approvals and land use permits required for these improvements in order to complete this project.
Not only will this plan preserve the NTC’s stature as a top public recreational facility and internationally renowned spectator venue but it will help us continue our tradition of bettering the lives of youth and the community as a whole.
Daniel Zausner is chief operating officer of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.