U.S. Open Tennis Gets A Remodel: A Roof For Arthur Ashe…Sort Of

U.S. Open Tennis Gets A Remodel: A Roof For Arthur Ashe…Sort Of

By James L. Knobloch September 6, 2016
Editorial Credit: Leonard Zhukovsky /

Wimbledon has its prestige. The French Open has its famous red clay. And, in typical New York fashion, The U.S. Open brings the party—loud music, bright lights, late night matches and celebrity attendees. And now, it really raises the roof, literally.

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It’s one of the best times of year here in NYC—and apparently New York’s most attended sporting events. The Open, held at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens, is well into its second week, and providing all its usual pageantry, thrills and compelling story lines in abundance. But one thing that’s different this year is the lid on Arthur Ashe Stadium—the marquee court of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and largest tennis-specific stadium in the world, with a capacity of more nearly 24,000 spectators. The state-of-art “roof”, which cost $150 million, virtually spells the end of bothersome weather-related delays on the show court.

Editorial Credit: rSnapshotPhotos /

Watch even just an hour of the television coverage, and you might not survive an “every time they say ‘new roof’ drinking game.” And the only thing more upsetting than irresponsible drinking is that it would be done in the name of a lie. That’s right, friends. You’ve been deceived:

That shiny new roof on Arthur Ashe is no roof at all. In truth, to call the structure a roof is technically inaccurate. What many are calling a roof is actually a “free-standing pavilion rising 125 feet over the sidewalk, on eight steel supercolumns and 16 great angle braces.” Essentially, what was constructed is a massive, freestanding cover to sit right over the existing stadium. The reason for this unexpected design is pretty straightforward: when Arthur Ashe Stadium was constructed, it wasn’t built to bear the weight of the addition of a roof, which is only exacerbated by the less than ideal former swamp and ash dumping ground it sits upon.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, on to the main event. The “roof” consists of an “80-foot-high, 4.4-acre expanse of translucent, milky-white fabric membrane” dome, covered in Teflon, and includes two 500-ton panels that when closed, cover the stadiums 250-by-250 foot opening in inclement conditions. This process is done by wheel assemblies known as “bogies,” which ride along steel rails, and can close the panels in approximately seven minutes.

The solution also created a new issue, though: condensation (think bathroom mirror after a hot shower). To counter this, and prevent it from “raining” inside the stadium, 16 massive cooling diffusers control the humidity levels.

Meteorologists, tournament officials, cutting edge monitoring and technology and around-the-clock personnel manning both the retractable roof and the cooling system are all a part of the team that ensure a smoother experience for an event frequently plagued by the elements.

The US Open is always a spectacular event, and this year is no different. This year saw Serena Williams break the record for grand slam wins, the unveiling of the new Grandstand and the final match ever to be played in Louis Armstrong Stadium.

And after two years in the making, the US Open’s finest has an equally fine roof over its head.

James L. Knobloch

ABOUT THE AUTHOR James L. Knobloch

ABOUT THE AUTHOR James L. Knobloch

A creative professional with a sharp tongue and a big smile, taking on city living one slightly-veiled sarcastic comment at a time. Born and raised just outside of New Orleans, James is a living testament to his own mantra, “Southern hospitality is a privilege, not a right,” giving his work a unique, dry humor meets charm perspective.

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