U.S. Open Serves Up a New Look
A lot of the buzz going into this year’s U.S. Open involved Serena Williams and her quest for the calendar Grand Slam—something no one has completed in singles since Steffi Graf in 1988. But that wasn’t all the news from this year’s Open, as I discovered during a visit to the USTA Billie Jean King Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow, New York, during the first week of play.
To start with, it’s hard not to miss all the construction going on as part of the center’s multiyear, $550 million transformation. In fact, the first thing one notices on the walk out from the subway is the roof superstructure (6,000 tons of steel) that now surrounds Arthur Ashe Stadium. The structure is the first stage for the retractable roof that is scheduled to be completed in time for next year’s U.S. Open. Still to be completed are the two retractable panels and, thankfully, a chilled water ventilation system to control humidity inside the stadium (something that felt missing during some exceptionally warm and humid days this year).
Also visible is construction on the new 8,000-seat Grandstand, which will include a new food village, being built on the southwest corner of the center. New food offerings at this year’s U.S. Open included Lavazza coffee, Jacob’s Creek wines and local favorite Juice Press cold-pressed juices.
A number of tourism-industry companies had a presence this year, with Starwood Preferred Guest, the loyalty program from Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, offering members a series of “2015 U.S. Open Moments” that included a chance to watch matches from the SPG Luxury Suite, have breakfast in the players’ dining room or hit some balls on the court itself. Global Tourism Partner Visit Orlando/Visit Florida also had a luxury suite and a booth on the grounds and also sponsored Arthur Ashe’s Kids Day.
And not all the action was on the grounds: The USTA opened its first pop-up restaurant at Grand Central Terminal; Eventi, A Kimpton Hotel, offered a “You’ve Been Served” package; and Langham Place, New York, hosted the “Party With the Pros” event, which could be attended as part of a package that also included two tickets to opening night in a luxury box in Arthur Ashe Stadium.