The United States Tennis Association (USTA) Thursday joined with New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Queens officials to release details of a proposed strategic vision for future development at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center (NTC) in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the site of the annual, internationally- renowned US Open Championships, one of the four premiere Grand Slam tennis tournaments.
The strategic vision – a series of interconnected construction projects that include building developments, infrastructure upgrades and improvements to site circulation – aims to enhance the current conditions at the NTC and preserve its stature as a world-class venue. The project will positively impact the facility’s ability to host its flagship event, the US Open, while simultaneously providing a superior experience for both visiting fans and players, allowing the City of New York to continue to reap substantial economic benefits.
“The US Open is one of the city’s greatest sporting events, and it generates more than $750 million a year in economic activity,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “The city recognizes the crucial need to improve the USTA facility and supports this vision, so that the center remains a top-ranked tennis venue capable of hosting the US Open, and thereby allowing the tournament to remain in New York City for many decades.”
“Our goal remains to ensure that the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center remains a world-class facility for the top professional tennis players, for the hundreds of thousands of fans who annually attend the US Open, and, as importantly, the near hundred thousand recreational tennis players who use this facility all year round,” said Jon Vegosen, Chairman of the Board and President of the USTA. “The Strategic Vision will enable us to achieve this goal.”
The project, expected to develop throughout a multi-year period and cost hundreds of millions of dollars, will be undertaken by the USTA, which will investigate a multitude of potential financing options. The project will primarily entail the replacement and renovation of aging facilities and infrastructures. Since 1978, the USTA has invested more than $500 million of its own funds into the NTC, and this project will continue that investment.
Currently, the US Open is New York City’s largest and most valued annual public sporting event, and generates $756 million in economic impact. Attendance now regularly tops 700,000, making the US Open the highest-attended annual sporting event in the world. On television and through various media, the US Open reaches a global audience, attracting 85 million TV viewers in the United States and is broadcast to 188 countries, with more than 41,000 hours of coverage.
“The US Open turns the eyes of the world to Queens each summer,” said Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx). “I’m pleased the USTA is making this investment, which will ensure the US Open remains a part of Queens for years to come. The US Open has a tremendous impact on our local economy and these investments will ensure that visitors and New Yorkers alike will continue to enjoy the facility, the great sport of tennis, and all that Queens has to offer.”
Most notably, the project calls for the construction of two new stadiums, one to replace the aging Louis Armstrong Stadium in its current location at the northeast corner of the site, and the other a brand new Grandstand Stadium, built in a different location at the southwest corner of the property. Seven tournament courts on the southern section of the site will be relocated between 30-50 feet, and a new walkway will be built to allow for easy access through the southern part of the site. Two parking garages will be constructed over existing parking lots to accommodate additional spaces, and seven courts on the northwest section – five practice and two tournament- will be replaced and linked by a new, elevated viewing platform that will provide better seating and viewing options for fans.
As a direct result of the collective enhancements, the project will enable the facility to accommodate an extra 10,000 people each day during the US Open, increasing attendance by approximately 100,000 new visitors, and amounting to a significant economic boost to Queens, New York City and the entire metropolitan region.
“For generations, the Borough of Queens has played host to the US Open, a world class sporting event and a major economic catalyst for our city,” said Queens Borough President Helen Marshall. “I look forward to working with the USTA to ensure that the new additions to the National Tennis Center bring the maximum benefit to the people of the borough of Queens.”
The US Open creates 6,000 seasonal jobs – with 85 percent of all employees coming from New York City and 41 percent from Queens. These 6,000 seasonal jobs yield the equivalent of 585 (direct and indirect) full and part time jobs for Queens residents, earning $40.33 million in direct and indirect employee compensation.
“The US Open is a great event for the City, for Queens and for Flushing Meadow Park,” said New York City Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe. “We fully support the expansion of the National Tennis Center and look forward to working with the USTA to advance these improvements.”
“It is important that the USTA remain a competitive facility in the global marketplace and this expansion will ensure that Queens continues to be home to the most state of the art tennis facility in the world,” said Council Member Julissa Ferreras. “As the Council Member who represents Corona and the Flushing Meadows Corona Park, home to the USTA, I look forward to working with the USTA to ensure that the expansion of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center moves forward.”
Situated on approximately 42-acres in the park, the NTC is one of the world’s largest public recreational tennis facilities, with indoor and outdoor amenities open for public use throughout most of the calendar year, hosting approximately 100,000 patrons.
“It is our privilege to partner with the City of New York on the high-level expansion of our facility, and by doing so, continue a long-standing collaboration deeply rooted in the annual success of the US Open,” said Gordon Smith, Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of the USTA. “The partnership is just as vital today as it’s ever been, and by working together we can preserve the US Open as a world-class event, which will benefit the city and local community for many years to come.”
Strategic Vision Overview
Louis Armstrong Stadium – Replaced; New Adjacent Administrative and Retail Building
The existing Louis Armstrong Stadium, located in the northeast corner of the site, is a 125,000 gross square feet facility with approximately 10,000 seats. First constructed as the Singer Bowl for the 1964-65 World’s Fair, the stadium is now nearing the end of its useful life. After demolition of the existing stadium, a new 15,000-seat stadium would be built on the same site. Similar to the existing facility, the new stadium would include concession, retail, broadcasting, and administrative space, as well as expanded rest room, first aid, and guest services centers, and would have two stories of administrative and retail space in an adjacent new building.
The Grandstand – New and Relocated
The current 6,000-seat Grandstand is located on the property’s east façade, adjacent to Louis Armstrong Stadium. Just like Louis Armstrong Stadium, it also was built as part of the 1964-65 World’s Fair Singer Bowl, and is near the end of its useful life. The proposed project would replace the current Grandstand with a new 8,000-seat stadium in the southwest corner of the site. Most of the area in which the stadium would be located falls within the boundaries of the USTA’s lease. One exception is a connector road between United Nations Avenue and Meridian Road, which runs through the leased area in which the new stadium would be located, and would be added to the area covered by the lease. This would increase the area subject to the lease by approximately 11,449-square feet, or .26 acres.
The connector road would be relocated to the area south of United Nations Avenue North near the Queens Museum of Art parking lot. New pedestrian walkways would also be created.
Tournament Courts – Relocated
Currently, there is a row of seven tournament courts on the southern portion of the site. Under the proposed project, four of the courts would be relocated approximately 50 feet to the south and three of the courts would be relocated approximately 30 feet to the south. The new NTC boundary line under the lease would move south to United Nations Avenue North, allowing space for pedestrian circulation around these courts, and along a walkway connecting to the new Grandstand Stadium. This would increase the area subject to the lease by up to approximately 32,973-square feet, or 0.76 acres.
New bleacher seating areas would be provided. The area to be added to the NTC lease is currently a mix of grassy and paved areas, including one lane of the three-lane United Nations Avenue North, which would be reduced to two lanes. The lane that would be eliminated is lightly used, primarily as a service road.
Parking Garages – Two New Garages and Relocated Transportation Center
Currently, there is a 200-space surface parking lot and transportation center in the northwest corner of the site, and an approximately 100-space surface parking lot in the northeast corner of the site. Under the proposed project, the northwest lot and transportation center would be replaced with an approximately 432-space, two-level parking garage and transportation center, and the northeast lot would be replaced with an approximately 370-space, three-level parking garage. No additional land outside the existing boundaries of the NTC would be required for these elements of the proposed project.
Northwest Tournament Courts –Reconfigured; New Elevated Viewing Platform
At present, the northwest courts include five practice courts and two tournament courts, each with bleacher seats. The proposed project would replace the existing courts and bleachers with five new practice courts and three new tournament courts. A new, elevated viewing platform would be constructed between the practice and tournament courts. No additional land outside the existing lease boundaries of the NTC would be required for this aspect of the proposed project.
The proposed project would also include lighting, infrastructure and utility improvements, as well as improvements to landscaping, paving and drainage within the NTC site, with sustainability features, and potential cosmetic enhancements to Arthur Ashe Stadium.