USTA stadium plans surprise community

Mayor Michael Bloomberg (l.) discusses a massive overhaul of the tennis facility in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Photo by Christina Santucci
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The United States Tennis Association revealed plans for a massive overhaul of its Flushing facilities, surprising the members of the community who are usually kept abreast of major developments in the area.

The renovations will run in the hundreds of millions of dollars and will enable an extra 100,000 people to attend the association’s annual US Open in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, which currently draws about 700,000 spectators.

“The US Open is one of the city’s greatest sporting events, and it generates more than $750 million a year in economic activity,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who announced the renovations last week at a breakfast meeting. “The city recognizes the crucial need to improve the USTA facility and supports this vision, so that the center remains a top-ranked tennis venue capable of hosting the US Open and thereby allowing the tournament to remain in New York City for many decades.”

The vision for upgrading the facilities includes the demolition of the Louis Armstrong Stadium, which currently seats 10,000 people. It would be replaced with a new stadium holding 15,000, according to the USTA.

The Grandstand, which currently seats 6,000 people and, like the Louis Armstrong Stadium was built as part of the 1964 World’s Fair, would also be demolished. A new 8,000 capacity stadium would be built on a different location within the USTA’s footprint, the association said.

The USTA also hopes to add new tournament courts and bleachers, along with two new parking garages.

“Our goal remains to ensure that the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center remains a world-class facility,” said Jon Vegosen, chairman of the board and president of the USTA.

But members of Community Board 7 groused that the USTA gave a presentation at its monthly board meeting just four days before Bloomberg’s announcement and said nothing of the enormous project.

“I was kind of taken aback,” said Gene Kelty, chairman of CB 7. “For them to say ‘by the way, we’re doing this and we want your support,’ that is not a good starting point.”

Kelty lauded the USTA’s work in bringing jobs to the community and the extensive outreach it provides along with public tennis courts and park maintenance.

But the surprise renovations came on the heels of another area of contention between the board and the association.

At the CB 7 meeting June 11, Kelty took the USTA to task for hosting auditions in Harlem for singers hoping to belt out the national anthem at this year’s US Open.

“You’re a Queens-based organization. I want to see it in Queens. That’s where it should be,” Kelty said, calling the tryouts scheduled to take place at the Apollo Theater unacceptable.

Kelty cited several venues in the borough that could host the tryouts, including the newly renovated Colden Auditorium at Queens College, Flushing Town Hall or Queens Theater in the Park.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Posted 7:25 pm, June 20, 2012
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