Ebbets Field, opening day, 1913. Image via UCinternational on Wikimedia Commons.
New York City is often focused on newness – particularly in the form of its sporting venues. The United States Tennis Championships at debuted its new retractable roof at Arthur-Ashe Stadium this year in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, but less was reported on the forthcoming demolition of Louis Armstrong Stadium. Like many others in New York City, Louis Armstrong Stadium will be lost to time, rendered obsolete and replaced by something shinier and new.
Here are 10 former sporting venus in New York City – some still standing, some lost to time.
10. Westside Tennis Club (former US Open)
Every year, on the last Monday in August, throngs of people from around the world flock to the US Open to watch the greatest names in tennis compete for a fortnight in the last Grand Slam tournament of the year. The US Open boasts a total of 22 courts and also hosts the world’s largest tennis stadium—the 22,547 seat Arthur Ashe Stadium.
And yet, while spectators watch, bedazzled and engrossed in the serves, slices, and volleys that occur at The Open, few are aware of the former location of the tennis tournament. A now placid, private tennis club in Forest Hills, the West Side Tennis Club hosted the U.S National Championships (it was renamed the US Open Tennis Championships in 1968) from 1915 to 1920, and from 1924 to 1977, after the construction of the 14,000-seat Forest Hills Stadium. It was at Forest Hills Stadium where many of the legends of tennis etched their names in tennis history. Althea Gibson became the first black player to play in a Grand Slam event in 1950, and the first black player to win the tournament in 1957. Billie Jean King the first player to win a Grand Slam event with a metal racket in 1967. Arthur Ashe was the first black man to win a Grand Slam in 1968—concurrent with the first live broadcast of the Open. There was even a shooting and bomb threat in 1977. Moreover, in addition to its usage as the main court for The Open, Forest Hills Stadium has been used as a concert venue for the likes of Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, and Donna Summer.
However, for all its glory, the venue had its shortcomings—lack of parking, inadequate food facilities, etc.—and after the U.S Open moved to its current home in 1978, Forest Hills Stadium started to deteriorate, ultimately becoming a forgotten venue. Such was its predicament that in 2010 West Side Tennis Club received an offer to demolish the stadium and replace it with condominiums. Despite being fraught with financial issues, the club opted to keep the dilapidated stadium, bowing to community pressure. Since then, the stadium has undergone some renovation and re-opened in 2013 as an outdoor concert venue.
Recently, the venue has hosted a series of regular summer concerts and on February 17, 2016, the newly formed New York Empire of World Team Tennis announced that the stadium would be utilized for their home games, thus completing the stadium’s resurrection as a tennis stadium.