By Laura Amato
The lines stretched around corners as the sea of people slowly, but surely filed their way into Flushing Meadows Park Monday for the first day of the US Open.
This year’s Open doesn’t just boast some of the biggest names in the sport. It’s also chock-full of changes and new looks—the most obvious of which is the $150 million retractable roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“I think it’s great,” No. 2 ranked Andy Murray said of the roof. “For players it’s a good thing I think. For the TV, for the media, fans, obviously. You know, it works. It works well for everyone. I’ll bet it doesn’t rain this year.”
In addition to the roof—which didn’t move at all on the sun-filled opening afternoon—the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center also underwent a handful of other face-lifts prior to the start of play.
The new grandstand stadium now boasts a capacity of 8,125—2,125 seats more than its predecessor. The venue got off to a winning start as Caroline Wozniacki cruised to a victory over Taylor Townsend in the first match of the day on the court.
Several other courts were moved earlier this year in an attempt to widen walkways and limit crowd congestion. Elevated walkways were also added to connect Courts 8 through 12 and Courts 13 through 16. The change allowed fans to watch several matches at once, something that fans relished with so many must-see matchups happening throughout the day.
“My mom is a fan of tennis, so this is kind of on her bucket list,” said Christine Stark of Hayward, Wis. “The park is gorgeous. I think we’re just hoping to see someone [my mom] knew and had seen on TV. She’s kind of deciding our itinerary for us. And we can kind of see it all from up there.”
Another walkway was also built on top of the refurbished grandstand and provides fans with a bird’s-eye view of the court below as well as the five nearby courts.
“I love the way they did the walkways, as many people that are here, you don’t feel like it’s nearly as crowded,” said Mary Anne Petrosky of Warren, N.J. “You can kind of peek out and see what’s going around the venue.”
This year’s construction is the latest phase in a $600 million project that is far from finished. A brand-new Louis Armstrong Stadium is slated to be completed by 2018, with 15,000 new seats for fans. The change to the much-beloved court is bittersweet, but it’s one that many spectators know is necessary.
Of course, the USTA is not the only organization looking to improve its facilities.
Work on a roof over No. 1 Court at Wimbledon has just completed and construction began in July on the removal of an existing fixed canopy. The French Open recently announced plans for a $400 million renovation project between 2017 and 2019, while the Australian Open just wrapped renovations which added roofs on all three courts.
Still, while the collective tennis world looks to improve its facilities, fans at this year’s US Open couldn’t help but be impressed by what was right in front of them. Now, they’re just hoping for a little bit of rain—after all, they want to see the roof in action.
“I’ve done the three-hour trip to get here and got here at night and it starts to rain and it’s canceled, so you lose your ticket,” Petrosky said. “So, for us, it’s a big deal. And it’ll be great to see the roof shut.”