The original 1978 Grandstand Stadium was located in the crowded northeast corner of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. 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, ROSSETTI's 2010 master plan moved Grandstand Stadium to the Southwest corner. The new stadium is part of a ten-year, $550 million re-design of the entire campus. The relocation of Grandstand expanded the USTA's leasable land .063 acres into Flushing Meadows Corona Park. While the expansion was minor, it required a rigorous effort of approvals, including the formal review process, known as the Uniform Land Use Review procedure (ULURP), through the New York City Planning Department.
The new stadium's exterior features a unique exterior skin pattern that metaphorically evokes the illusion of peering through the foliage of leaves. The material plays with opacity and translucence, offering glimpses in and out of the stadium. Its innovative skin is made of a Teflon-coated fiberglass membrane, or polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) fabric, fastened to a cable structure with parametric geometry. The facade is composed of 486 panels, over 26,000 square feet that were designed with computational solver software to streamline design and constructability.
The façade design presented unique challenges as the architectural design team transitioned out of design and into the phases of detailing and prototyping. The site posed constraints at its location along North Meridian Road, as well as elevation changes. To the naked eye, the building assumes the form of a uniform single radius arc, however, its shape is a hexadecagon (16-sided). Poor soils also required complex engineering solutions for the structure.
One of the major constructability issues that had to be overcome in the early detailing phases was that the overall geometry of the panel façade was aligned to 3 non-planar splines which defined the centerline of primary structural ring beams. The design team, using Rhino (3D modeling software), utilized the structural grid as a guide to segment the spline shaped ring beams into 40 unique segments. A computational evolutionary solver (Galapogos, which is a Grasshopper plug in or parametric design tool) was used by ROSSETTI and employed to test thousands of possible radii and fit the optimal radius which could be applied to all of the 40 sections while concurrently minimizing the geometric deviation from the original design. The team consulted with the University of Michigan to assist with these constructability issues.
The stadium nestles into its new location within Flushing Meadows Corona Park and the trees along the edge of the campus. The stadium and its surrounding context are designed with an abundance of fan amenities, creating a relaxed, park-like setting. Fans are drawn into Grandstand from a set of grand staircases and along an upper walkway that provides an expansive view of the campus, including five tournament courts, the Alleé 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. For the players, Grandstand still offers the intimate experience they remember. “I think we would contend that Grandstand has the potential to become one of the greatest show courts in all of Grand Slam tennis,” said Danny Zausner, Chief Operating Officer, USTA National Tennis Center.