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West Side Stadium thrown a lifeline


 

Originally published on: 08/10/10 13:11

The historic West Side Tennis Stadium, home to the US Open between 1923 and 1977, has been granted a reprieve from redevelopment plans.
Members of the New York club voted against proposals to convert the crumbling stadium into luxury apartments and a swimming pool, a huge boost to those fighting to save the landmark arena.

In its heyday, West Side Tennis Club played host to a string of moments that rank at the very top of tennis history. From Rod Laver’s calendar slam triumphs in 1962 and 1969, to Billie Jean King’s first victory with a metal racket frame in 1967, to Althea Gibson’s 1957 win – the first Grand Slam title for a black tennis player, matched by Arthur Ashe on the men’s side in 1968.

The iconic horseshoe-shaped stadium was also the setting for music concerts, including The Beatles, and is considered a local landmark in the New York borough of Queen’s. But since the US Open moved to its current home – just a miles away at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows – the disused court has been allowed to slip into disrepair.

With the club faced with a hole in its finances and no way of restoring the 2.5-acre venue to its former glory – at a cost estimated at $15 million – developers have been sought to resolve the situation. This first proposal, from local developers Cord Meyer, would have earned the club $9 million, but now there is a chance the stadium could receive official protection from the city’s Landmarks Preservation Committee.

The announcement of the proposal in August was met with passionate opposition from those who seek to retain the historic venue. The chairman of the club’s tennis committee, Roland Meier, resigned from his post in protest, while feted tennis historian Bud Collins, who reported on his first match there in 1956, recently admitted: “every time I think about that place being demolished, I cringe.

“The stadium is part of sports legacy in the United States,” he added.

The Stadium’s fate rested with the club’s 300-strong voting membership, but the committee failed to reach the two-third majority required to back the plans. Now the club is open to receiving offers from other developers, having previously been blocked from doing so under the agreement with Cord Meyer – itself a contentious issue.

“Many of us feel that the stadium committee did not explore all other options before moving forward with this proposal,” Christine Schott, a West Side member, told local media. “It’s outrageous that the board signed a contract with Cord Meyer stating that they would not entertain any other offers until this was voted on. I doubt any board member would sell their house that way.”

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