The United States Tennis Association will soon have the lightest-weight retractable roof money can buy, all for the bargain price of just over $100 million. In an effort to reverse the recent trend of U.S. Open men's finals being rain delayed until Monday, the USTA finally relented and became the last of the four Grand Slam tennis events to build and/or announce plans for a retractable lid. That should make both ticket holders and broadcasters jolly.
Earth concerns have long been one of the primary reasons the USTA hasn't covered the 22,500-seat Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing, NY. Built on a former landfill, the soil under the stadium simply couldn’t handle adding more weight to the stadium. Sinking tennis courts generally don't play well.
The solution—created by Rossetti, the stadium’s original designer—calls for a flexible, translucent PTFE fabric (Teflon) stretched over a steel frame in four, 400-ton panels. Eight new steel columns surrounding the outside of Arthur will support it all, offering relief to the existing structure. Flashy and translucent, the new roof—which can close in less than seven minutes—represents only a portion of a total $550 million overhaul at the New York site, including a new Louis Armstrong Stadium to replace the current one, and moving the current Grandstand court from the northeast corner of the center to the southwest corner.
Construction in New York will start in a matter of weeks, following this year’s Open, with the first piece—the new Grandstand—ready in 2015. The retractable roof will be in place above Arthur Ashe no later than 2017, and the fresh Louis Armstrong Stadium will wrap in time for the 2018 event, the same year the French Open hopes to have its retractable roof done. In the meantime, here are some pretty renderings to hold you over:
Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and technology for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.