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Ashe & Armstrong Stadiums

May 25, 2008 12:33 PM

Arthur Ashe Stadium

Arthur Ashe Stadium; Photo credit: Al Bello /Allsport
Tennis was forever changed the moment Arthur Robert Ashe Jr. won the US Open in 1968. While ending a 12-year drought for U.S. men in the nation's premier tennis tournament, Ashe, more significantly, became the first black man to win a Grand Slam event, proving to the world that tennis was indeed "open."

More than 30 years later, the name Arthur Ashe lives on in the hearts and minds of those who remember him as one of the top tennis players and humanitarians in American history. His name also lives on at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Arthur Ashe Stadium, one of the grandest facilities of any tournament – Grand Slam or otherwise – in the world.

"Through the years, many people have honored Arthur and his work," Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, Ashe’s widow, said at the 1997 USTA news conference announcing the stadium was being named for her late husband. "All of the honors have been very flattering and much appreciated. But I think Arthur would be extremely proud of this honor because he was very committed to the USTA and to helping it create opportunities for those who need them most."

"... I am grateful that with Arthur Ashe Stadium at the USTA National Tennis Center, there is now a memorial for Arthur here in New York City."

Arthur Ashe Stadium is a four-level structure designed by Rossetti Associates Architects, the same Birmingham, Mich., firm that designed the stadium at the Tennis Center at Crandon Park in Miami, which is the home of the Nasdaq-100 Open and the USA Tennis High Performance offices. Arthur Ashe Stadium features state-of-the-art broadcast and audio systems, 90 luxury suites, five restaurants (including media and player dining), a two-level players' lounge, and individual seating for 22,547 fans.

The individual seating, increased restroom facilities and increased concession stands are among the most visible differences between Arthur Ashe Stadium and its predecessor, Louis Armstrong Stadium. But the more subtle differences include loge box seating that is almost 10 feet closer to the center of the court, a two-fold increase in the number of entranceways for fans with upper-level seats and a 30-fold increase in seating availability for people in wheelchairs.

Such distinctions, no matter how subtle, are the benefits of building a stadium specifically for tennis. Louis Armstrong Stadium was a previously existing structure adapted for use as a tennis stadium.

Said Tracy Austin, two-time US Open champion and television commentator, "Arthur Ashe Stadium has the locker rooms right in the stadium, so you’re just 20 feet away from walking on the stadium court. The training room is right there. The press room is right there. Obviously, modern day conveniences – they built it up-to-date with the latest model. So it’s better for everybody."

Louis Armstrong Stadium

Louis Armstrong Stadium photo credit: Clive Brunskill /Allsport
Louis Armstrong Stadium was the original centerpiece of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center until the expansion of the facility in 1997. Originally called the Singer Bowl, the arena was built for the 1964 World’s Fair but was virtually abandoned after the event until former USTA President Slew Hester came up with the idea of moving the US Open Tennis Championships there from its home in Forest Hills, N.Y., in 1977.

Hester, who had been looking for a place to relocate the tournament, first noticed the stadium from the air when he was flying into LaGuardia Airport. The colorful USTA president inquired about the arena, which had been renamed Louis Armstrong Stadium in the early 1970s in honor of the jazz great who had lived a few blocks from the site, and lobbied to make it the new home of the US Open.

Although it was a major undertaking to have a world-class tennis facility completed within a year, Louis Armstrong Stadium was refurbished and several additional courts were built for the start of the 1978 US Open. Since then, the arena has played host to some of the most exciting moments in tennis history.

Today, Louis Armstrong Stadium serves as the No. 2 arena at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center behind Arthur Ashe Stadium. Although it is no longer the largest stadium at the venue, Louis Armstrong is still one of the most popular places to watch a tennis match. Re-sized from holding 18,000 spectators to just 10,000, the refurbished stadium provides a more intimate setting for the public to enjoy seeing their favorite tennis stars in action.

Other changes made to the stadium include the modernization of the Great Hall, the main hallway encircling Louis Armstrong Stadium, new flooring and lighting, and a new exterior that was refaced in brick to match Arthur Ashe Stadium. In addition, a number of amenities were added for use during the US Open, including a Fila store, a Wilson store, a US Open kids’ shop and a US Open gallery, which has been used to showcase a variety of exhibits.

Even with the many modifications that have been made to Louis Armstrong Stadium since it first became the centerpiece of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center more than two decades ago, one thing remains unchanged. Said then-USTA President Judy Levering at the stadium’s re-dedication ceremony in 1999, "The legendary tennis that has been played in Louis Armstrong through the years is still the same."



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