FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – So here we are another day looking to be a washout. Already the doubles matches have been canceled and the women may be coming soon.
Yet, today the USTA addressed the situation and, of course, some reporters asked about a roof.
“Well, look, would I love to have a roof? Absolutely,” said tournament director Jim Curley. “But it is certainly one of those situations where you have to really look at the practical aspects. In ’07 we didn’t have a single session rained out. In ’08 we had one, and thus far, knock on wood, hopefully we’ll only have one rained out in ’09.
So you weigh that against the potential costs of a roof on Ashe of $100 million or more, and it’s a tough decision. We’re trying to figure out the best ways to utilize the revenues to promote our sport. That’s a tough decision for us to make that, you know, nine-figure investment in a roof.”
Of course when it rains everyone wants to have a roof and Currey and USTA Chairman Gordon Smith also said they were looking into what it would take to cover Ashe.
Yet, the same problem will remain: No matter what material you use, the ground that the Tennis Center is built upon is very soft from the original landfill.
If you read the Great Gatzby, you will know that Flushing Meadows – Corona Park was once called the Valley of the Ashes. It was a garbage dump that the city plowed over for the 1939 World’s Fair. The lands that Shea Stadium, and now Citi Field, stands on also was part of the same landfill.
Back in the 1980s, the city looked into putting a dome on Shea, which was part of the original plan. Yet the feasibility study said that the weight of the roof would collapse the stadium because of the land it stood upon.
Now they want to do it with Ashe, which may have the same problems. Of course, the Tennis Center is newer, but Ashe sits on a water pool, that’s below ground. That’s why there’s always a drainage problem there. If you look at the pictures of the United States Pavilion – which was on the Ashe footprint in 1964 – from the World’s Fair, you will see the pool under the structure.
So it’s going to be difficult and expensive. The media is all for it though. It’s not their money and by pushing the Open back a day, the out of town members are forced to push their fights back and get night in the hotel. That’s an extra expense that none of the newspapers want to endure and why this is getting so much service.
And that especially comes from the British media. Because a roof was placed on Wimbledon, they think every other venue needs one too. Five years ago if this wad mentioned by anyone, all the royal subjects of the Queen would pelt you with their strawberries and cream.
Yet, what’s good for the Brits – and the Aussies for that matter, who need their roof because of the heat – may not good for the USTA. Remember that money that they will save will go elsewhere, such as promoting the sport in this country.
“We’re nonprofit,” Smith said. “Our mission is to grow and develop the game of tennis. We spend the money we make on the Open on grassroots tennis. The money we make here goes out into grassroots all around the country, including building this tennis center, which 11 months of the year is the nicest public tennis center in New York for New York citizens to use without having spent a penny of taxpayer money. Our money goes out and does that.
“So the question is, are you going to spend $100 million or more, we don’t know exactly, on a roof that you might use once a year, which would be the average? Or is the money better spent promoting the game that we have been promoting so successfully? Because over the last five years, grassroots tennis has grown tremendously. Tennis is growing more than any of the traditional sports in our country. So it’s a very difficult balance to make.”
No it’s not. The USTA has done a very good job upgrading Flushing Meadows over the past 20 years. It’s the best tennis center in the world. But to have roof insurance for the cost of over $100 million is a just too much of a price to pay.