Until recently, the USTA National Tennis Center was sitting pretty in the NY sports facility game, and they were looking pretty good around the tennis world, as well. “Five to seven years ago, we felt like we were one of, if not the pre-emininent, facility in New York,” Said Gordon Smith, the USTA’s executive director and chief operating officer. “Look what happened.” Smith was referring to the four new constructions – Citi Field, a new Yankee Stadium, the Barclays Center for the Nets, Red Bull Arena for the NY Red Bulls of the MLS and a remodel of Madison Square Garden. “We had to remake ourselves,” he said.
And remake themselves they have, putting a roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium for 2016, erecting a new Grandstand Stadium fresh for 2016 and committing to plans to scrape and redesign Louis Armstrong Stadium in time for the 2018 Open. In doing so, they officially join Wimbledon and the Australian Open in the “Grand Slam Roof Club” and leave Roland Garros standing alone in the rain (and once Grandstand and LA Stadium get their scheduled retractable roofs by 2018, the US Open will be tied for the roof lead with Australia, at 3).
In one of those impossible, subjective discussions of which slam offers the best stadium experience, we’ll put them against each other in three head-to-head match-ups:
Arthur Ashe vs Rod Laver
Capacity: 23,771 for Ashe vs 15,000 for Laver
Opened in: 1997 for Ashe vs 1988 for Laver
Roof closes in: 5-7 minutes for Ashe vs 20 minutes for Laver
Intangibles: There’s something pretty special about the concept of people sitting up in the promenade section, barely able to see the actual tennis in any meaningful way, and being there only to support the spectacle of a the US Open experience itself.
We give the nod to Ashe, because 24,000 people collectively holding their breath and then all yelling at the same time, under flashbulbs, the gaze of celebrities and the NY sky is an experience crafted by the stadium itself.
Winner: Arthur Ashe Stadium
Louis Armstrong vs Hisense Arena (also known as Melbourne Park Multi-Purpose Venue)
Capacity: 10,200 for Armstrong vs 10,500 for Hisense
Opened in: 1978 for Armstrong vs 2000 for Hisense
Roof closes in: Armstrong is roofless until the new one arrives in 2018 vs 10 minutes for Hisense
Fun Fact: Being a multi-purpose venue, the netball attendance record at Hisense is 10,300, set when the Australia national team beat New Zealand 53-51, in 2004. This is undoubtedly larger than the netball attendance record at Armstrong.
In 1978 Connors beat Bjorg for the US Open title, Rumours by Fleetwood Mac was the Album of the year and an 8-track player cost $169. Of all these things, Louis Armstrong Stadium might be the most relevant today. It’s had a great 38-year run and we’d like to send it packing with one more victory before it turns to rubble.
Winner: Louis Armstrong Stadium
The New Grandstand vs Margaret Court Arena
Capacity: 8,000 for Grandstand and 7,500 for MC
Opened in: 2016 for Grandstand and 1988 for MC, with a renovation in 2014
Roof closes in: Grandstand doesn’t have a roof vs 5 minutes for MC, which shines like a copper penny when it closes.
None of us have actually seen the new Grandstand, so although it looks cool in the mock-ups we’ll hold off until after this year’s open before we consider it topping the very high standard set by MC Arena, which we love.
Winner: Margaret Court Arena
What does any of this mean? Well, surely it means that anyone who has an opportunity to visit any one of these stadiums should consider themselves lucky. Over the years, all six of these venues have hosted iconic matches that resonate within the collective memories of tennis fans and are written down as bucket list items by those who have yet to visit. Of course, Grand Slam Tennis Tours is glad to help make any new checks to the bucket list. We have 2016 US Open Packages available, starting at $1,295, and we can get you two days on Laver and two on Margaret Court starting at $2,750. All packages include luxury hotel accommodation, Welcome Dinner with past champions, tennis playing opportunities and more. Call to book, at 888-910-2894.
Don’t forget to enter our #WINbledon contest, for a chance to win a trip to a place that deserves an entirely unique discussion: Wimbledon’s Centre Court.