New Louis Armstrong Stadium is Better than Ashe

The reviews are in and fan feedback towards the new Louis Armstrong Stadium has shown to be mostly positive.

On the Friday before the US Open began, the new Armstrong Stadium hosted Media Day, which was free and open to the public for the first time ever. Fans had a chance to sit in the lower bowl and eagerly anticipated the first match of many they’ll see on that court. Many approved of the unique, striking look and intimate feel of the stadium, with its terra cotta louvres facade facing the American Express Fan Experience and the Food Village on the East Plaza. On that day, the Polo Ralph Lauren, Wilson, US Open Collection and Adidas stores also opened for business on the ground floor of stadium.

There really was no need to overwhelm the public with a revolutionary new stadium with dozens of drastic technological advancements; for the new structure, it was the little things that counted the most. Coming up to the mezzanine of the stadium from outside shouldn’t be a problem, because of the wide stairways and escalator banks leading up to it. The Grand Slam Grill on the mezzanine level is accessible from both upper and lower bowls, and close enough to the new bathrooms, without being right next to it (appetizing). While you are in line, you can just look over your shoulder to watch the action on the court through the TV monitors. You can even take a walk to the end of the gallery to peek out of the stadium and look out towards the end of Flushing Meadows. According to the architects at ROSSETTI, the stadium had natural ventilation and foregoing air conditioning in mind; even with the top of the stadium closed, a breeze would filter through the distinctive louvres, which also functions to keep rainwater out.

Along with the recently ground-up built Grandstand and Court 17 in mind, Armstrong has fit into its place within a constantly developing tennis ground, to point that Arthur Ashe Stadium has now become the homage to the past, despite opening in 1997. Many US Open usuals will certainly notice the better acoustics of Armstrong compared to that of Ashe; my friend noted that when the roof at Ashe is closed, that it would be very hard to hear the chair umpire’s remarks. It would have been even harder to stay cool because air flow would have been mostly cut off by the closed roof. Watching from the general admission upper section of the stadium feels more intimate than watching from the nose-bleeds in the prior iteration of the Armstrong Stadium. Think about how the new Citi Field compares to Shea Stadium and the way the new ballpark’s upper deck seating was laid out. Even though Shea could fit more baseball fans, Citi Field built to have the nosebleed crowd in mind so the gap between them and the players on the field would be decreased.

Even though the US Open’s rule for leaving the roof open in the midst of high heat conditions seems ridiculous, the passive ventilation cooling hasn’t been an issue. You can see the effect of the breeze through the stadium, of how the fans flocked from the sunlight over to the shaded areas during the match between Naomi Osaka and Aryna Sabalenka. The debate will continue over whether the warmer conditions relative to those from past years greatly decrease quality of play at the US Open. Will organizers who consider the US Open a strictly outdoor competition, approve closing the roofs to block out the blazing sunlight during day sessions? No one can be thrilled to play or sit around with the heat index in Queens over 95 degrees as it was on Labor Day. The players that have already endured a sweltering Wimbledon and are planning around playing in the Australian Open in the dead of summer down under can’t wait for the US Open to end sooner.

If the only significant complaints of the new stadium are like those that Sloane Stephens had about the planes, trains and stadium chatter, then there should be reason to believe the tournament organizers should be content with the newest stadium at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. To appease those uneasy of change in general, the essence of tennis in Queens is more the same. The flyovers of low planes landing at and taking off from Laguardia Airport and the rush hour subway cars pulling into the yard right next to Armstrong are all still there. What the tennis lovers will surely notice with Armstrong is a structure with its own identity and a nod to the future that goes very well with the other modern outdoor courts.

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  1. I attended the Fed/Millman match and I will attest to the difficult conditions. Albeit this was an evening match, the air climate was VERY heavy. Must have been difficult conditions for the athletes to play there best without air circulating. Spectators were uncomfortable as well as I saw many depart. I don’t understand the stadium’s structure and its air distribution systems. There seem to be air distributors around the ceiling perimeter, but nothing is on (perhaps when dome is closed?).

    I’ve been on both court-side and high levels during the tournament and while the heat is part of the game, I’m frustrated that the operations team have not addressed the conditions in both ASHE and ARMSTRONG. I understand that a lot of money was spent and I’m surprised there are no operation systems to address these very unnatural and uncomfortable conditions. Pity to see any player (and fans) retire as a result of these oppressive conditions. Personally, I want to see great tennis, not uber athletes competing against the heat.

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