New tennis stadium planned for Flushing Meadows

The Louis Armstrong stadium and the grandstand behind it still holds roughly 10,000 US Open fans, but the USTA plans on building a new high-tech stadium that would seat about a third of that number. Photo by Christina Santucci
By Joe Anuta

It’s “add-on” at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center.

Possibly as soon as the end of the year, the United States Tennis Association will be opening a new stadium to the Flushing Meadows Corona Park complex.

“We always have a strategic vision about ensuring the National Tennis Center remains a world-class facility,” said Chris Widmaier, spokesman for the association.

The new stadium would hold a modest 3,000 people — the Arthur Ashe stadium seats more than 22,000 — and would be specially designed for television broadcasts for the one time a year when crowds flock to the park to watch the US Open.

The stadium would be the fourth such “show court” at the facility and would go in the southeast corner of the tennis complex, according to Widmaier.

In order to make room, Court 18, one of the public courts, would be torn down along with some storage facilities.

But that is exactly what worries Patricia Dolan, president of the Flushing Meadows Corona Park Conservancy.

“We are very concerned about any kind of reconfiguration of the tennis center,” she said. “Going back to the time the center was built, the USTA made concessions to the community that there would be on-site parking and courts available to the public.”

But according to Widmaier, Court 18 is the least used of all the 30 courts. And the new stadium would not the place of any parking spaces.

“Right now the goal would be to have a very minimal impact on the courts,” he said.

And it will have no impact on the wallets of New Yorkers.

“We have a history of investing our own money in the site and that will continue,” Widmaier said.

But the USTA still has to get approval from the city Parks Department and the Department of Buildings before construction of the stadium can proceed, according to a city employee, and that will not happen until it is in its final design phase. The stadium currently is in its preliminary design phase, according to the architecture firm Rossetti, which designed the structure.

And the stadium is just part of a long-term vision for the center, a vision that the USTA hired Rossetti to help realize.

“We designed the original project in the late ’90s, then have come back multiple times to assist them with the upgrades and master planning needs,” said Leslie Genest, marketing manager for the firm.

The firm’s web site said the long-term plan extends for 20 years and will help the site with structural updates as well as service, retail and sustainability issues.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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