9. The U.S. Open Dries Courts with “Slambonis”
Before the retractable roof was installed, courts would be dried off from rain using a fleet of Zamboni-like machines. As of 2004, there were 38 of these machines, nicknamed the “Slambonis” which were designed for the courts at the U.S. Open. When the “Slambonis” first debuted, it was estimated that using them saved about 10 minutes of play for each interrupted game. They hold 30 gallons of water, sponging and vacuuming the courts at the same time. Blowing hot air damages the surfaces, so drying machinery was ruled out in the development of the machines.
Equally important, the Slambonis had to be up to city codes. As Chris Widmaier, the U.S.T.A.’s senior director of public relations at the time, said, “Because of fire department codes, we cannot keep much gas on the premises, so we had to look at electrically powered or battery-operated machines. And the machines had to be narrow enough to get through the narrow entrances and exits.”