By RALPH D. RUSSO, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. Tennis Association plans to give the home of the U.S. Open a makeover that will cost it hundreds of millions of dollars, but does not include putting a roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
The USTA unveiled its plan Thursday to upgrade the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, starting in the fall of 2013.
The renovation calls for the 6,000-seat Grandstand adjacent to Louis Armstrong Stadium to be relocated; seven tournament courts moved to create more room for spectators to get about the grounds; and Armstrong Stadium rebuilt and expanded from 10,000 seats to 15,000.
Danny Zausner, director of operations for the tennis center, says it will take about a year to get approval from New York City because it involves acquiring three-quarters of an acre of land owned by the city. Mayor Michael Bloomberg supports the plan.
USTA Executive Director Gordon Smith declined to put a price tag on the renovations, but said the organization is looking at spending hundreds of millions.
Also among the planned upgrades are new practice courts with viewing areas for fans and expanded parking garages. The renovations will allow the USTA to sell 100,000 more tickets to the 13-day event and create more courts with televised matches, Zausner said.
The construction will be done in phases with the final phase involving the rebuilding of Armstrong Stadium. The USTA expects that to begin after the 2016 or 2017 tournament and be ready for use the following year.
The USTA has worked with engineers and architects for years to try to come up with a way to put a roof on the 25,000-seat Arthur Ashe Stadium to help combat rain delays for marquee matches. The last four men's finals have been played on Mondays instead of the traditional Sunday finale because of weather delays.
But because the tennis center was built on unstable, swampy land, Ashe Stadium cannot hold a roof, USTA officials said.
Smith said the only way to do it would be to build a "building over a building." He called that "an architectural abomination" that would not be worth the cost.
"There is not an economic case to be made for building a roof," he said.
Smith said the organization will keep working toward finding a way to put a roof on the stadium, and there will be some cosmetic improvements made to it during the renovation.
"Ashe is a very well-built stadium," Smith said. "It probably has around 30 years left of useful life."
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