In anticipation of this event, here are 10 notable things about the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, which will host Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, Roger Federer, and the rest of tennis' best.
1. Location: For starters, if you are going to check out the Billie Jean King Center, you need to know how to get there. Located on Corona Park Road in Flushing, the Center is home to Arthur Ashe Stadium and Louis Armstrong Stadium, in addition to many public and private courts on which non-pros can play.
2. U.S Open History: The then-named United States Tennis Association National Tennis Center opened in 1978 when the USTA president led a movement to move the U.S. Open to the facility on the site of the 1939 and 1964 World's Fairs. Leading the push was W.E. "Slew" Hester, who realized that the tournament had outgrown its previous home at the West Side Tennis Club.
3. Louis Armstrong Stadium: When the U.S. Open first came to the National Tennis Center, the championship was decided on the court in Louis Armstrong Stadium. At the time, the stadium held 20,000 spectators. As noted below, the stadium has since been replaced as the feature attraction at the Center, and has undergone extensive renovations (with more to come).
4. Operation: The National Tennis Center is operated by the USTA, which had the center built and Louis Armstrong Stadium renovated without any public assistance. The USTA is a governing body that has been established to promote the overall growth of tennis.
5. New Stadium: In March of 1995, the USTA undertook massive renovations of the National Tennis Center, scaling back Louis Armstrong Stadium to hold approximately 10,000 and adding a new stadium to the complex. The renovations led to the unveiling of the new Arthur Ashe Stadium in 1997, which would be the feature venue for the Center, and the U.S. Open, going forward. Arthur Ashe Stadium has the ability to hold over 22,000 spectators, and has proved to be one of the most impressive tennis venues in the world.
6. Name:In 2007, the USTA renamed the National Tennis Center the "Billie Jean King National Tennis Center" in honor of all of King's achievements, both on the tennis court and off it. Although equally as remembered for the litany of accomplishments on the tennis court (including 39 grand slam titles), King's most timeless contribution to the sports world may have been her victory over Bobby Riggs in the 1973 "Battle of the Sexes."
7. Other Things to Do at the Center: While the marquee event at the Billie Jean King Center is obviously the U.S. Open, there are other things to do for those who aren't willing to merely sit as spectators. This is because the Center is a paradise for the tennis player, even the non-pro, as it has 30 outdoor courts, 12 indoor courts, and four climate-controlled clay courts, all available for public use. In addition, there are countless pros who call the Center home for purposes of instruction.
8. Sports Neighbors: The Billie Jean King Center is just an errant hit (or, in the case of the Mets recently, throw) from Citi Field, home of the New York Mets. This makes it easy for spectators who are attending the U.S. Open to take in a Mets game during some downtime at the Center. Although the Mets embark on a road trip during the bulk of the U.S. Open, the final weekend of the tournament also features Met-killer Chipper Jones' final series in New York. In addition to the Mets, recent reports indicate that Major League Soccer is close to finalizing a deal to bring a soccer franchise to Flushing in a to-be-constructed 25,000-seat soccer complex in the shadow of Citi Field and the Billie Jean King Center.
9. Rain: One unfortunate thing to note, if you are going to the U.S. Open, you may want to bring an umbrella, and you may want to call off work on Monday following the scheduled championship match. This is because the last four U.S. Open finals have been delayed until Monday due to rain. In addition, last year, many competitors were upset with the way officials handled the wet conditions. Although USTA representatives inquired with professionals about building a roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium to alleviate these issues, they have been advised that the land underlying the stadium is not strong enough to support the increased weight the structure would carry.
10. Upgrades:Although there may be logistical barriers preventing a roof being built on Arthur Ashe Stadium, that is not stopping the USTA from nevertheless embarking on expansive renovations to the Center. The USTA recently announced that it plans on spending an estimated $500 million over the next 10 years to, among other things, build a new Louis Armstrong Stadium. Some of these renovations have already been completed, such as $7.5 million worth of improvements to the players' lounge, locker rooms, and fitness facilities that make the Center as enjoyable for players as it is for fans.
Considering that the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center is already the premiere tennis facility in America, $500 million worth of additions and improvements are likely to make the venue a can't-miss prospect even for casual tennis fans.
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Del Pearson is a life-long tennis fan and New Yorker who waits with anticipation for the U.S. Open every season. Follow Del on Twitter @DelPearson2.