1. It blocks the rain ... and the sun
One reason the roof opens and closes so quickly is because a large portion of the roof is permanently in place. Much of the air space above the north and south portions of the stadium is covered with a steel framework and the same durable PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) fabric as the two panels that slide together from the east and west to form the completed roof.
This will have some practical benefits for players and spectators alike: large portions of the least expensive seats in the upper section of the 24,000-seat stadium will have significant shade, depending on the time of day. The great benefit for the players will be that the roof promises to cut down significantly on the infamous swirling winds that sometimes plague the tournament.
2. It has a hole bigger than a football field
It might seem like the functioning part of the "retractable" roof is small. That's really a comment on the size of Ashe. The "hole" filled with blue sky when the roof is open is actually larger than a football field. You can fit 22 tennis courts into it. The roof can be operated in a maximum wind speed of 50 miles per hour, which is 19 mph faster than the average speed of a severe thunderstorm starting from a dead calm.
3. The year of the roof isn't just about the roof
The roof is the great novelty - and the much-needed upgrade - this year. But this will be a vastly improved US Open in many other ways as well. A new 8,000-plus seat Grandstand stadium now dominates the southwest corner of the grounds. Visually, it's a gem, even if old hands who loved the "soul" of the old grandstand deride it as antiseptic. We'll see how it functions as a venue for players and fans.
4. Expect scheduling challenges
Unlike Wimbledon, the US Open has day and night sessions. So what happens if rain interrupts a day program? Do you finish the order of play and cancel the night session? Officials will have to decide whether to move outside matches into Ashe after they were started on other courts. (Usually play continues on the same court when there is any kind of interruption or postponement.)
Fairness issues will undoubtedly kick in as officials try to stay on schedule, satisfy broadcasters and treat players equally.
Blog adapted from an online article written by Peter Bodo for ESPN on August 2, 2016
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