Report: USTA looking at designs to build U.S. Open roof by 2016

Monday July 15th, 2013

(Chris Trotman/Getty Images) The U.S. Open men's final has been pushed to Monday due to rain delays the last five years. (Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

The United States Tennis Association is actively looking at initial design proposals for a roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium by 2016, according to SportsBusiness Journal.

The USTA announced last summer that there will be $500 million worth of renovations and improvements to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, but those plans did not include concrete designs for a roof.

“Although the roof is important, all of these things need to be dealt with,” said Gordon Smith, chief operating officer for USTA. “We’re not going to wait to do a roof to start the improvements we need to do.”

At the U.S. Open, which has had five consecutive Monday men's finals because of rain delays, Smith emphasized that should a feasible roofing solution be found, the USTA would move forward with the roof regardless of any other projects already in the queue.

It appears the search for a "feasible" solution has begun. From SBJ (subscription only):

"Could it be done by 2016?" USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier asked. "We don't have a [final] design as of this moment. But we are going to push as hard as we can. We want to have a roof.

There are two schemes under consideration, adding to an addendum to the RFQ responding to a vendor's question about the roof. The roof material would be composed of a fabric called PTFE, short for polytetraflouroethylene, the addendum said. It is similar to the translucent roof planned for hte Minnesota Vikings' new stadium in downtown Minneapolis.

Unlike the Vikings' foxed roof design, though, the USTA's proposed roof would be a movable structure covering the playing area with a fixed portion over some seating, the addendum said.

Still in the initial design phase, there are no estimates as to how much a new roof would cost or how the USTA would fund its construction. The USTA would also need to get state and city approval before any construction could begin. The difficulty in building a roof over Ashe centers on weight. The 22,500-seat stadium, which is the largest tennis stadium in the world, is built on landfill that experts say can't bear any additional weight. A roof over Ashe would span five times larger than the roof over Centre Court at Wimbledon. The USTA has commissioned four roof studies over the last 10 years but has yet to find a workable design.

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