Officials will spend more than half a billion dollars to install moveable Wimbledon-style translucent roofs on a pair of stadiums in a three-part project to bring the US Open up to standard, tennis bosses announced on Thursday.
The project first phase is set to include a huge roof over the Ashe showcase stadium followed by a second arena with the possibility of being covered in case of rain.
US federation president Dave Haggerty said the roof over the massive 24,000-capacity showcase court should be operational by 2017, said to be a rather optimistic timetable.
"There will be a roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium," he said.
The second phase comprises a new 8,000-seat Grandstand stadium and the relocation of some current courts in a move which will allow and extra 10,000 people through the gates daily at a facility which at peak times can be hugely crowded in public areas.
The final phase will include the construction of a new 15,000-seat Louis Armstrong stadium, which will also feature a moveable roof.
"We have an aggressive construction agenda for the entire National Tennis Center, with a new Grandstand Court built in time for the 2015 US Open, new retractable roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium by 2017, and a new Louis Armstrong stadium opening for the 2018 US Open," said executive director Gordon Smith.
"We recognise there are many known, and certainly many unknown, hurdles we will have to confront to meet this schedule. We are ready for the challenge and hope we can achieve it."
The last five years of delayed finals might actually now become a distant memory.
Haggerty said that the Ashe roof will be able to close in five to seven minutes. It will remain closed during the 11-month off season when nothing happens on the tennis site built on a landfill in Queens.
Specifications for the structure call for an opening of 76 metres square, with the 18,500-square-metre roof itself measuring four times larger than that of Wimbledon's centre court.
USTA officials said they will self-finance the project through a combination of bonds and revenue generation.
"We've been working toward a viable design for a roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium for more than a decade," said Haggerty.
"Through a long and arduous process, we feel that we now have a design that meets the criteria of being architecturally sound, aesthetically pleasing, reasonably affordable, and buildable."
Bad weather has forced the men's final to be played on a Monday at the last five editions. This year, the US federation just gave in and set the final for Monday anyway, a plan agreed with television interests which will last this year and next.
After that, the event is due to scrap its controversial, decades-long quirky scheduling which denied men's finalist a day of rest after their matches.
The "super Saturday" plan was hatched in the 1970s by American television and flew in the face of all the other three majors, which play men's semis on a Friday and the final two days later.
With the New York announcement, only the French Open currently lacks a showcourt roof, with plans to build one over the Chatrier stadium currently held up in legal disputes. The Australian Open is working on its third and Wimbledon covered Centre Court in 2009.
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