A new 3,000 seat stadium court, simply called "Court 17," will be ready to go when this year's US Open begins.
I had a conversation with Chris Widmaier, who is the Managing Director of Communications for the USTA, about the new show court on the grounds of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
The word is that the court will be ready for action when the Open begins on August 29.
This is huge for many reasons. The addition of a new state-of-the-art show court means that the Open will now have four showcourts to put juicy matches during week one, a time where many enticing tilts end up sequestered on the less spacious sidecourts.
Here are some of the details of the new court, according to Widmaier:
"When we say a show court what we mean by that is a couple of things. It will have full broadcast operations, it will also have electronic line calling," said Widmaier. "By putting it in the area that we're putting it in (see USTA sketch above for location), we're hoping that we can change some of the traffic flow on the site to better utilize the overall space, and sort of reduce some of the crowding that happens through the East gate and in the South Plaza."
I asked Widmaier about the characteristics of the court, particularly about the fact that the court is actually sunken into the ground by several feet.
"Some people are calling it the pit," said Widmaier. "One of the reasons to do that was to alleviate the sight lines of the structure from outside of our footprint. We are a public park and we are in Flushing Meadows Corona Park," he added. "The thinking there was trying to create a more aesthetic sight line for park users."
While the court will be ready for the 2011 US Open, the USTA is leaving room to make further improvements to the court in the years to follow. "It will be operational in 2011," said Widmaier. "There might be some further enhancements that are added on after the 2011 Open -- they are in the process right this moment of constructing it."
Other things to note:
- Court 17 will be first-come first-serve for all grounds pass ticket holders.
- No official word on when Grandstand and Armstrong will be taken out of commission and/or renovated.
So, great news for the Open, as a 3,000 seat show court will be added to the grounds and nothing will be taken away. As I do the math I can't help but think that this will create more space all over the grounds, giving fans more chances to get close to the action and soak up some Grand Slam ambiance.