It is estimated that roughly 750,000 people pass through Grand Central Terminal every day. A good portion of this number includes tourists and shoppers, but many are commuting locals, who—despite passing through the beloved landmark on a daily basis—may be unfamiliar with the many secrets it holds. On our upcoming Tour of the Secrets of Grand Central Terminal, we’ll explore the story behind this iconic New York City structure; we’ll peek into the entrance of its glass walkways, locate its lost armchairs and learn about its backwards ceiling. We’ll even get a chance to see its hidden, but accessible tennis courts, located in a little known space called the Annex, which once served as home to an art gallery before the ’50s, a TV studio for CBS and even a 65-foot-long indoor ski slope.
It may come as a surprise to many city-dwellers that tennis at Grand Central Terminal has existed since the 1960s. Hungarian immigrant Geza A. Gazdag founded the Vanderbilt Athletic Club on the third floor of the terminal, and named it after Cornelius Vanderbilt, who built the original Grand Central Depot. Its facilities included two clay courts, as well as that ski slope mentioned above.
In the 1984, however, real-estate magnate, Donald Trump, took over the space to create the private “Tennis Club” where celebrities and other wealthy tennis enthusiasts could play—so as long as they were willing to fork up $155 for an hour of court time on weekdays and $130 on weekends. In addition, no credit cards were accepted at this “uber-exclusive” facility, according to Atlas Obscura.
For close to three decades, the club catered to the rich and famous until 2009, when it was shut down to make way for a new, full-service lounge for Metro North railroad employees. However, the project left more than enough room for new courts to be built. After a ceiling was placed over the three-story atrium that once contained the old tennis facilities, Vanderbilt Tennis Club moved into the newly-constructed fourth floor in 2011.
The courts are now open to the public, although tracking them down takes a bit of investigative work (you’ll find that some GCT employees are even oblivious to the club’s existence). The easiest way to access the facility is to head to the currently shuttered Campbell Apartment, a beloved bar and cocktail lounge, located inside the terminal. It’s now closed due to management changes, but there are elevators in the lobby outside the bar that will bring you directly there. Alternatively, you can also take the elevators located halfway down the ramp that leads to the “Oyster Bar” and Tracks 100-117.
The facility itself is equipped with 30-foot ceilings, one junior court, two practice lanes, a fitness room and one regulation-sized Main Court, which is fitted with U.S. Open “Deco Turf.” Gothamist also reports that the main court is the only one in New York City that features on-court, slow-motion video analysis. It’s a non-membership club, but price per hour is as steep as ever ($200-$280 per hour) depending on the time of day and day of the week.
To see the tennis courts and many other hidden secrets of Grand Central Terminal, join us for an upcoming tour. We’ll learn about what GCT once was, what it could have been, and what it can be.
Next, check out the Top 10 Secrets of Grand Central Terminal and see what the Vast, Cavernous Spaces Beneath Grand Central Terminal look like. Also, learn about GCT’s famous celestial ceiling.