Coming back from a record-breaking U.S. Open (the previous opening day record was set in 2015), Matt Rossetti speaks on the tennis center's new palette of materials, smart master-planning, and how the new retractable roof is able to function in rain or shine.
Q: Every year, the U.S. Open hosts the biggest tennis spectacle in the country. You just got back from the tournament, which just wrapped up. What is your impressions on the venue during peak usage?
Matt Rossetti: The really cool thing about this is they added 10,000 people to the new capacity for the day sessions, bringing it up to 40,000; combine that with the 25,000 people at night sessions and that 65,000 interface is amazing. It used to be horribly crowded. It was fun for five minutes, but you couldn’t move without bumping into somebody, which is uncomfortable. Now, through our new master planning efforts, we have created an entirely new circulation esplanade across the campus edge that opens up everything. That same 65,000 people feels like half the crowd. Sure, it’s still busy, but the essence is: they can move, they can dine, they can shop, they can people-watch, and they can hang out in parks. So it’s been a night-and-day transformation in terms of circulation.
Q: The aesthetically pleasing roof of Arthur Ashe roof is up and running, so what’s next?
MR: To touch on Arthur Ashe for a moment: the great thing the new operable roof did was enhance the visceral stature of Ashe - it feels much more impressive as a building. But, because of how gorgeous the roof is, the stadium looks dated. They’ve come to us and said, ‘We have to boost Ashe up. We need to make up for 20 years of wear-and-tear on the building.’ We have a lot of renovations planned for the building to meet the context of the roof.
In addition, we have another building, the Louis Armstrong Stadium; it’s under construction and will be ready for the 2018 U.S. Open. Armstrong will have a massive impact because it’s at the front door of the campus (except for the Ticket Building, which is a sweet treat that finished last year). When you look around campus, you see a whole new palette of materials and design, so we’ve gotten away from that early 90's aesthetic that had existed so the campus will feel whole once when Armstrong is finished. Also, the base of Armstrong is enormously long and filled with retail and other public amenities.
Q: Personally, what’s your favorite aspect so far?
MR: Undoubtedly, my favorite part is starting with a clean slate. We had a 48-acre clean slate to rework and it’s been exceptionally rewarding to reconfigure the campus and to work so closely with Danny Zausner. We’ve come up with so many interesting innovations in terms of planning and design for what the future tennis campus will be.
Q: Did the clean slate make your approach any different?
MR: ROSSETTI has a process that we stick with: Discover, Dare, Deliver. The key part was during Discover- we had a strong vision that we would move away from a tournament campus and instead make a campus for spectacle. It was about the entertainment angle, and how we could treat the crowd to numerous surprises.
Q: So, how has the fan perception been with the new roof?
MR: Frankly, it was unbelievable. For seven straight days, New York media had nothing but great things to say. When it finally rained during a match, people said it was loud. But, when you have a drum cover above you with rain beating the drum, there’s going to be noise. At least we were inside watching tennis and not getting wet, so the offset is well worth it! The sheer elegance of the roof and how well it opens or closes in six minutes is amazing. A nice shaded seat during a baking hot August day in NYC is spectacular.
Q: Who were the sponsors of the US Open this year?
MR: This year, the Mercedes Building turned out great. A major part of a revenue stream and a large part of any sport, the importance of corporate sponsorship is how good they feel on campus. We love working closely with sponsors and providing them with opportunities to look great.