The USTA announced that the USTA National Tennis Center -- the world’s largest public tennis facility and home of the US Open -- will be renamed the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center to honor the tennis legend and trailblazer whose pioneering efforts helped change the sport of tennis and launch the drive for gender equality in sports and in society. The official renaming ceremony will take place on Opening Night of the 2006 US Open.
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King, one of the most illustrious and celebrated athletes in history, is recognized for spearheading the women’s movement in tennis by fighting for equal rights in the sport. Among the most decorated champions in tennis history - - with 39 Grand Slam titles, including 13 US Open titles - - King’s historic defeat of Bobby Riggs in the 1973 “Battle of the Sexes” is the most-watched tennis match in history. Her victory reverberated through both tennis and society, and proved a watershed moment for women and a galvanizing milestone of the 20th Century.
King, who began playing tennis in the public parks of in Long Beach, CA, has been a pioneer on and off the court. She founded the Women’s Tennis Association in 1973 and the Women’s Sports Foundation in 1974. She also is the co-founder of World TeamTennis. Her dedication to advancing women’s opportunities in sports helped lead to the passage of Title IX legislation. For her many achievements, King was named by Life magazine one of the “100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century,” and placed No. 5 on Sports Illustrated’s “Top 40 Athletes.”
The USTA now honors two of the sport’s greatest icons who transcended tennis and gave voice to important cultural issues in this country. In 1997, the USTA named the world’s largest tennis stadium after Arthur Ashe.
“Billie Jean King is one of tennis’ greatest heroes,” said Franklin Johnson, Chairman of the Board and President of the USTA. “Much like Arthur Ashe, for whom our showcase stadium is named, Billie Jean is a champion not only of sport, but a champion of those causes in which she so strongly believes. Her accomplishments have benefited all women in sports, as well as countless women in any number of career fields. Those things, along with her extraordinary tennis achievements, cry out for recognition, and I am thrilled that our Board unanimously agreed on renaming our National Tennis Center in her honor.”
“This obviously is a great honor for me," said Billie Jean King. "This outstanding facility is a public park, a place where everyone can come and enjoy our wonderful sport. It is truly humbling that this will link me with Arthur Ashe with whom I celebrated many experiences and shared dreams of the future for this great sport. I know this will continue to be a place where present and future generations of players come out, pick up a racquet, learn a sport and dare to dream big and go for it."
On Opening Night of the US Open, August 28, the USTA National Tennis Center will be officially renamed the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center during a special tribute and ceremony.
“Billie Jean King is a champion unlike any other, and this year’s special tribute on Opening Night of the US Open will give everyone an opportunity to celebrate the legacy of a true American hero,” said Arlen Kantarian, Chief Executive, Professional Tennis, USTA. “This promises to be one of the most meaningful and memorable nights for the US Open and the sport.”
“Billie Jean King is a legend among legends and we honor her groundbreaking achievements by renaming the USTA National Tennis Center in her honor,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “She set an exceptionally high standard not only for athletic achievement, but for dignity and perseverance in the pursuit of justice. Billie Jean King is an inspiration to all budding tennis players and all Americans. And as a New Yorker of 30 years, she is the perfect person to receive this well-deserved honor.”
With more than 380 different programs that annually attracts nearly 65,000 tennis players, the USTA National Tennis Center is the world’s largest public tennis facility and is open to the public throughout the year. The National Tennis Center is situated on 46.5 acres in Flushing Meadows, NY. The staff of more than 20 coaching professionals conducts programs, clinics, leagues and tournaments throughout the year. The National Tennis Center is open seven days a week, eleven months a year, closing only on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
In 2006, the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center hosted a number of major tennis events, including the 80th annual National Public Parks Tennis Championships, the Jana Hunsacker Memorial Eastern Wheelchair Championships, the USTA NTC Women’s College Invitational among many others. The Center also is the home site to 36 USTA League teams and dozens of New York City school colleges.
The USTA National Tennis Center opened in 1978, and inaugurated Arthur Ashe Stadium, the world’s largest tennis stadium, in 1997. The Center is in the midst of a major renovation that saw the addition of appealing fountains in the South Plaza, a manually operated Drawboard, new restaurants, and also will include the construction of a new, state-of-the-art Indoor Tennis Building that will be completed in 2008.
>Press Conference Transcript: Billie Jean King, USTA President Franklin Johnson and USTA Chief Executive, Pro Tennis, Arlen Kantarian
Video from the press conference (Windows Media)