Building the largest tennis stadium in the world may not have been the smartest move for the US Tennis Association after all.
First of all, people who buy the most affordable tickets, in the upper levels of Arthur Ashe Stadium, should not expect to see a tennis match, or at least should not forget to bring binoculars with them. The tennis ball is too small for a 23,000-seat stadium, the experience is not fun at all, and therefore the facility is rarely full.
Then there is the impossibility of following the latest trend on major tennis events: to build a retractable roof over the main court. Both Australian Open and Wimbledon have done it. Rain was once again a major problem for the US Open in 2011. Two full days of play were cancelled, which causes stress on the players, fans and organizers, not to mention the financial harm to the media and sponsors who bought the event.
It has been a big burden. Rain delays cause tournament organizers to make decisions under pressure from the TV channels that own the broadcasting rights, which makes players feel unappreciated. Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Andy Roddick formally and personally complained to the organization about how they felt that their own safety was not a priority in the event.
The cost of building a roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium would be over $200 million, which is too much money to spend on a court that is rarely used throughout the year. The powerful USTA could make a better use of this money to invest in the foundation and future of American tennis, for instance.
Building the roof over one of the other courts, like the Grand Stand or court 17, would not make sense, as it would kill ticket sales for the gigantic Arthur Ashe Stadium. After all, who would buy tickets for the largest court if the featured matches were scheduled somewhere else?
Over the years, Arthur Ashe Stadium has proven to be a bad decision by USTA. Such a humongous venue doesn’t suit the size of a tennis court. Providing the best tennis experience for ticket holders was clearly not a priority over the shallow goal of being able to brag about owning the largest stadium in the world. USTA became a victim of its own greed and is now losing money because of it.
This is a clear case of when less is more. Time for USTA to get its priorities straight!