“A monstrosity,” one New York veteran columnist called Arthur Ashe Stadium in the press room during the one hour and 47 minute rain delay yesterday.
And of course there was chirping from the British media, because if their beloved Wimbledon can put a roof on their Centre Court, why not one in Flushing Meadows?
The fact is, even with the last three Open Finals pushed back a day, putting a roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium is just not practical from any aspect. In fact, to cave into the roof demands will take valuable resources away from other USTA endeavors.
“It’s technically complex and financially challenging,” USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier told Reuters the other day. “At a cost of more than $150 million, do you spend that on a roof or continue to fund grassroots tennis programs in this country?”
Widmaier is probably being nice as some estimates put it over $250 million. From a fiscal standpoint, why would the USTA shell out for a roof just in case there is a storm coming through the second weekend of September? It just doesn’t make sense. And once a covering is installed, you know it won’t rain on the Open for 10 years.
Yet, other majors are going in that direction, so why not the Open? Well in Melbourne, having covered courts is part of the infrastructure of the city. Rod Laver Arena – the Australian Open’s main stage – acts as the city’s main arena for the rest of the year. It’s used for about 180 days outside of the two weeks in January. And Hisense Arena also doubles as a basketball arena for the rest of the season.
Any ancillary events in New York for a crowd the size of Arthur Ashe will go to Madison Square Garden, Nassau Coliseum, The Meadowlands, The Izod Centre, and soon the Barclay’s Centre so there will be no extra economic impact. Over the first 14 years of its existence, Arthur Ashe only was used once for a non tennis event in 2008, when the WNBA played a game there.
Some may argue Wimbledon built one with no extra use. But the fact is the weather in London during the beginning of July usually calls for rain. Heck they even put it into the plotline of the movie “Wimbledon” where a shower came through, which allowed the two protagonists to make up. If they made that movie today Paul Bettany and Kirsten Dunst would never have found love. Wouldn’t that have been a tragedy?
In Queens, however, the two weeks of the Open tend to be the driest of the year. Before 2008, the only other time the Open was pushed back until Monday in Flushing Meadows was in 1987. Before then you had to go back to 1974. Just because there was a lot of rain over the past few years doesn’t mean the USTA needs to shell out a quarter of a million dollars.
Let’s say they did. Arthur Ashe is built on landfill, as Flushing Meadows – Corona Park was once an ash dump (It was in the book the Great Gatzby as the Valley of the Ashes) and it foundation was once the foundation of the United States Pavilion of the 1964 World’s Fair, a building that’s half the size of the current structure. To put a roof on Ashe, they would have to redo the whole foundation and then put the covering on it. Or they would just have to blow up Ashe and start anew.
Unfortunately neither plan would be finished in a year, disrupting an Open or two in the future.
Another argument is to cover Armstrong Stadium, but then the USTA would have to expand that venue in order to accommodate, every ticket holder.
No, the USTA is stuck with Ashe, like it or not and putting a roof on the so-called “monstrosity” just doesn’t make sense. The Open would be better served using that money to expand the outer courts to accommodate more people. Frankly, those matches tend to get very cramped, very quickly.
But a roof? No need. The Open is better without one.