Construction is in full swing to overhaul the USTA Tennis Center in Queens. Borough Reporter Ruschell Boone got a tour of the facility and checked out the project.
High above these wet seats and puddle-filled court is a $150 million retractable roof that's now six months away from completion. It's on schedule to be ready in August, just a few weeks ahead of this year's US Open. When it's done, rained out matches at Arthur Ashe Stadium will be a thing of the past.
"We've had to delay our finals on a number of occasions," said USTA Executive Director Gordon Smith. "We've played finals on Monday afternoon but never again. If it's raining outside we will be playing inside."
Workers have spent the last two-and-a-half years building a permanent structure around the stadium, with an opening larger than the size of a football field. Retractable panels will close it in just 5 to 7 minutes according to officials at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
"Right now we've got a fabric up on the South end of all the steel," Daniel Zausner, Chief Operating Officer with the association. "When we're done the fabric will line the entire perimeter as well as there will be fabric on the two retractable portions. So anyone who is sitting anywhere in the bowl or the players on the court will all be underneath the canopy that will protect them from the elements."
That canopy has will also create many more shaded seats in the nearly 24,000-seat stadium.
The roof is not the only thing fans can expect to see this year. The construction is part of a $600 million overhaul of the USTA National Tennis Center.
"There will be ten field courts as there always was but none of them will be in the same place," said Zausner. "There will be a lot more open space and all new landscaping."
Nearly all of the Southern Campus is in under construction. A new grandstand stadium will also be completed in time for this year's tournament.
"This is about keeping up and making sure we are the best tennis venue in the world," Smith said.
Over 700,000 people come here every year for two weeks of matches.