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USTA will spend $500 million not to add a roof to US Open

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Even the artist's rendering of the plan includes rain clouds (New York Times)

The USTA heralding a $500 million renovation to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center that doesn't include plans for a roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium is like getting down on one knee and telling your girlfriend how much you love her. It's a nice gesture overshadowed by what it isn't.

While the USTA is focusing on renovations and added capacity at the US Open, the real story of Thursday's announcement is that there won't be a roof for the 23,000-seat show court. The men's final has been postponed until Monday for the past four years due to rain delays. Nearly two full days were washed out at last year's event. These problems won't go away even with a half-billion dollar proposal. But, hey, they're making a new pedestrian walkway in a few years!

The story about why Ashe can't get a roof hasn't changed: It's too big and needs a roof that's too heavy. Since the stadium was built on a "swamp-like ash dump," it can't sustain the weight. It's claimed that an Ashe roof would cover five times what the new Wimbledon roof does. That one weighs 3,000 tons.

Without a roof on Ashe, there won't be a roof anywhere else.

"The tournament does not function with a single roof being anywhere but the main stadium," said Daniel Zausner, managing director of the tennis center, via the New York Times. "You can't tell 23,700 people to move to Louis [in the event of a rain delay], which will have 15,000 seats. That leaves 8,000-plus without a seat."

Isn't it nice how the folks at the USTA act as if their hands are tied when they're ones who bound themselves? You all built the behemoth that is Arthur Ashe Stadium. You're the ones who put it on a swamp-ash land and made it so wide that it needs a roof it can't support. All that's in the past, but stop acting like this isn't a situation of your doing. The problem isn't that BJK can't house a roof right now, it's that you didn't have the foresight to think it ever needed one.

As for the actual plans: The 10,000-seat Louis Armstrong Stadium will be replaced with a new 15,000 seat arena. Grandstand court will relocate and get a 2,000-seat upgrade. Its old site will house a retail center with clay courts on top. A seven-court area will be created near Ashe. Four practice courts will allow for hundreds of spectators on a two-level viewing platform. Three tournament courts will seat a few hundred fans.

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