ESPN Tennis looks forward to installation of a retractable roof at the US Open

flower pots (Dave Nagle/ESPN)
Flower pots disguise construction support structures for Arthur Ashe Stadium’s planned retractable roof. (Dave Nagle/ESPN)

NEW YORK – Following the lead of the other three Majors in tennis – the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and the announced plans for the French Open – in 2016 the US Open will have a retractable roof installed on Arthur Ashe Stadium. That’s no mean feat considering it is the largest tennis facility in the world with room for more than 23,000 spectators.

Covering the facility had been long-discussed and studied – and widely considered impossible given the size of the stadium and the soft soil of Flushing Meadows, N.Y., the US Open’s home. But the need became more urgent after frequent weather-related disruptions to the tournament in recent years, pushing the men’s final to Monday.

The long construction process – necessarily avoiding conflict with the US Open each summer – began after last year’s event. Seven of the eight pilings support structures have been built into the ground – cement-filled steel tubes that go down 120-180 feet, each supported by 4,000-cubic feet of concrete.

National Tennis Center Construction Timeline

2014 – West Stadium (competition courts 4, 5 and 6) and Practice Gallery
2015 – Retractable roof superstructure completed
2016 – Retractable roof on Ashe finished; new Grandstand completed
2017 – New Louis Armstrong Phase 1 (court and first level of seating completed; temp seating above first level)
2018 – New Louis Armstrong (roof ready) complete and East Entrance enhancements
Walking around the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, you wouldn’t detect those support structures – they are covered with giant flower planters!

A roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium is big news in the tennis world – for the fans, the players and for the television networks which now can count on continuous action – at least one match – throughout the two-week event. The oft-aired memorable 1991 Jimmy Connors comeback against Aaron Krickstein won’t get as much airtime in the future.

Considering ESPN acquired exclusivity to the US Open for 11 years starting in 2015, it’s especially good news for ESPN Tennis’ crew. In the video above, commentators Cliff Drysdale, Mary Joe Fernandez, Mike Tirico and John McEnroe share their thoughts on looking forward to the roof.

Video produced by Dave Nagle and Josh Lander

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