Behind The ScenesTennis

Bringing the Grandstand Court (now “P-6”) back to life at the US Open

Old Grandstand provides views where the fans seemed to be on top of the players. (Dave Nagle/ESPN)
Old Grandstand provides views where the fans seemed to be on top of the players. (Dave Nagle/ESPN)

NEW YORK – At the close of the 2015 US Open, many eulogies were written about the beloved Grandstand Court.

The cozy confines hard alongside Louis Armstrong Stadium had been home to many memorable matches over the years, ever since the event moved from Forest Hills in 1978. But now it was being “retired” in the name of progress.

For 2016, a new Grandstand Court has been opened on the opposite side of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center – and to rave reviews.

But lo and behold, as play began this week, the “old” Grandstand – planned to be a practice court until future construction in that end of the facility, hence the designation “P-6” – was once again in use for main draw matches.

Many of the courts on the grounds were re-done in the last 50 weeks – from the sand base to the two feet of asphalt to the specially calculated mixture that is the playing surface. Despite repeated attempts, USTA officials were not happy with Court 10.

It “did not meet competitive standards” an announcement last weekend stated.

Hence, old Grandstand, a.k.a. P-6, is back online.

But what did that mean for the host broadcaster, ESPN?

Terry Brady, director, remote production operations, had his team ready to move in.

“We first learned Court 10 might be a problem about August 18, and kept hoping for a decision,” Brady says. “In the meantime, we had to prepare and outfit Court 10, while knowing we might be moving all the equipment we were installing.”

Just last Saturday, word came down. The old Grandstand was to be brought back to life.

“While we were prepared to move, clearly our timeline for setup was compressed so we had to scramble a bit,” Brady explains.

Not only did P-6 need Court 10’s equipment – cameras, mikes, surface wiring, camera platforms, etc. – but because it wasn’t expected to be a TV court, the fiber-optic cabling had to re-installed (the wiring from last year was no longer TV-quality).

But on Monday, Aug. 29, at 11 a.m., WatchESPN went live with Court P-6.

Steve Darcis of Belgium defeated Jordan Thompson of Australia in a come-from-two-sets-back thriller worthy of Grandstand’s best days – 5-7, 3-6, 7-6, 6-4, 7-5.

It’s just another example of how ESPNers plan for emergencies and do what’s needed for the fan.

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