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US Open Rolls Out Retractable Roof

Monday, August 29, 2016

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Visitors to this year’s U.S. Open tennis tournament will have respite from the rain for the first time, in the form of a massive retractable roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium, the main show court at the Open’s New York complex.

The new roof and a brand new Grandstand Stadium are this year’s new features at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, in Queens, part of an ongoing, nine-year-long refresh that will be complete in 2018. Both were designed by Detroit-based firm ROSSETTI, and built by general contractor Turner Construction.

Years of Planning

The Arthur Ashe roof was years in the making; other Grand Slam tennis tournament venues have installed retractable roofs in recent years to keep their two-weeks tournaments on track in the event of inclement weather. The Australian Open’s Rod Laver Arena, completed in 1988, has had a movable roof since its construction; Centre Court at Wimbledon unveiled its roof in 2009. Discussion of a roof for Ashe dates back to at least 2003.

Arthur Ashe roof
Images courtesy of ROSSETTI

Visitors to this year’s U.S. Open tennis tournament will have respite from the rain in the form of a massive retractable roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Arthur Ashe lays claim to the title of largest tennis stadium in the world, seating 23,771 and making a movable roof in Queens a greater challenge than it was in London or Melbourne. ROSSETTI, which originally designed the 1997 stadium, went public with a successful design for the roof in 2013, after years of debate as to whether it was possible—the firm had begun planning in 2011.

Beyond being one-and-a-half times the size of Wimbledon’s Centre Court by capacity, Arthur Ashe stadium is built on swampland, raising concerns that a roof would increase the stadium's mass too much and cause it to sink. The architecture firm's solution: a lightweight Teflon-coated fiberglass membrane, less than a third of an inch thick, stretched over a steel framing system.

Roof Details

The roof measures 236,000 square feet and fits the octagonal footprint of Ashe as it has always stood; it’s supported by eight steel columns around the perimeter of the stadium, according to project details.

The roof is designed to open and close within 10 minutes, the firm says, and operates at a top speed of 25 feet per minute. The firm says it can operate in winds of up to 50 mph.

Arthur Ashe roof detail

The roof consists of a lightweight Teflon-coated fiberglass membrane, less than a third of an inch thick, stretched over a steel framing system.

There were some hiccups during the official unveiling of the roof earlier this month—the roof took a few tries before it reopened—but officials say everything is still on track for this year’s Open, which begins in earnest today (Aug. 29).

In addition to ROSSETTI, multiple engineers and consultants served roles: WSP, M-E Engineers, de Bruin Consulting, RGR Landscape, AVVIT Consulting, FP&C Consultants, Levy and Geiger Engineering are all cited on the project.

Grandstand Stadium

The new Grandstand Stadium, relocated from one corner of the grounds to the other, also employs Teflon-coated fiberglass, not in a roof, but in its facade.

Grandstand Stadium

The 16-sided Grandstand Stadium has an open end that allows visitors a view of five tournament courts beyond its bounds.

With a capacity of 8,125, the 16-sided Grandstand Stadium has an open end that allows visitors a view of five tournament courts beyond its bounds. The shell going around about three-quarters of the stadium is made of a Teflon-fiberglass skin fastened to a cable struction, project details note, which “metaphorically evokes the illusion of peering through the foliage of leaves.”

Design for the Grandstand began in 2013, according to ROSSETTI. The skin is made of 26,000 square feet of fiberglass membrane, and the firm used computational solver software to streamline the complex geometric work.

Game Not Over

The revamp of the tennis center isn’t over: After this year’s Open is finished, crews will demolish the venue’s secondary show court, Louis Armstrong Stadium, to rebuild it, also with a retractable roof.

The team plans to have that stadium, which will seat 14,000, operational for the 2018 Open.

   

Tagged categories: Architecture; Contractors; Engineers; Fiberglass; Roofing materials; Stadiums/Sports Facilities; Steel

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