The original Grandstand Stadium at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center was located in the crowded northeast corner of campus. The stadium was loved by fans for its intimate atmosphere and access to the players; however, in an effort to create a more even distribution of fans throughout the campus, the master plan required the stadium to be moved to the opposite southwest corner of campus.
The new Grandstand Stadium is an anchor destination that draws fans from the dense programming of the northeast corner, providing much needed additional services on the west side of the site, allowing the entire campus to feel more comfortable.
The new 8,000-seat Grandstand Stadium nestles into its new location within Flushing Meadows Corona Park and the tree-lined edge of the USTA campus. The stadium and its surrounding context are designed with an abundance of fan amenities to create a relaxed, park-like setting. The stadium façade features a unique exterior skin pattern that metaphorically evokes the illusion of peering through the foliage of leaves, while referencing the movement and fluidity of a tennis serve.
Complex parametric modeling software was used to design and organize 486 fabric panels seamlessly around the stadium. Stretched by cables back to the structure, the fabric panels consist of a woven Teflon-coated membrane that allows for translucency, and transparency through the skin from the concourses. Viewed from the exterior, the building assumes the form of a single curve; however, it is much more complex. The stadium and structural geometry form an asymmetric hexadecagon (16-sided polygon). The shape of the bowl is not arbitrary but designed precisely for the best sightlines to the court and the highest amount of seating shaded from the late summer sun.
Many technical challenges needed to be overcome through the design process. Extremely poor soil conditions led to complex structural engineering, architectural detailing, and the use of lightweight steel composite material. Solving the geometry of the bowl, fabric panels, and roof required the use of custom software designed by the architects, multiple sketch models, full-scale, 3D-printed prototypes, and intense coordination with installers.
From a design and experience aspect, one major challenge was retaining the unique intimacy of the original Grandstand Stadium, while remaining connected to the overall campus. Keeping the lowest side of the stadium closest to the heart of the campus allowed fans to be immersed in the spectacle of the event, while allowing the action on the court to be protected. The project provided much needed additional food and beverage experiences for the entire west half of the campus. Due to the compressed nature of the site, roof terraces, lawn areas, and extended concourses were utilized to provide fan amenities.
Contextual challenges included integration of the stadium design with the existing World’s Fair follies at Corona Park, while creating a landmark on the edge of the USTA campus. The skin needed to screen views of the structure and event from the park but allow guests visual access to the park. The result is a new folly that stitches the park and campus together.
Fans are drawn into Grandstand Stadium from a public plaza, up a set of grand staircases, and along an upper walkway. From this vantage point, there is an expansive view of the campus, including five tournament courts, the public plazas, and the World’s Fair Unisphere. The walkway also allows fans to move freely along the perimeter, under the cover of the translucent canopy overhead. The lower bowl is recessed into the earth, creating an intimate tennis experience that highlights the player-fan relationship. New concessions, a picnic area, and plazas surround Grandstand Stadium and provide fans with a comfortable, laid-back atmosphere as an alternative to the hustle and bustle of the rest of the campus.