Forest Hills Stadium
Photo by Bryan Kwan, Courtesy of Forest Hills Stadium

Both tennis champs and rockstars have made history at Forest Hills Stadium in Queens. This August, the historic venue will celebrate its 100th anniversary! Originally opened in the 192os to host the U.S. Open tennis tournament, the site now serves as a modern concert venue. While home to the West Side Tennis Club – which still occupies the adjacent Tudor-style clubhouse and tennis courts – the stadium played host to many groundbreaking moments in tennis history, such as when Althea Gibson became the first African American player to ever win a Grand Slam. In the 1960s, the stadium began to host concerts. Legendary acts like Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan, Diana Ross, and Dolly Parton graced the stage. When the U.S. Open moved to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in 1978, the stadium went into a period of decline. Thankfully for New Yorkers, this Queens gem was restored and re-opened in 2013 and has since been the site of sold-out shows from superstars like Ed Sheeran, Chance the Rapper, Santana, and more. From its hidden dive bar to infamous concert moments, uncover the secrets of Forest Hills Stadium below!

Backstage Forest Hills Stadium Tour

Forest Hills Stadium

Join Untapped New York Insiders for a backstage tour of Forest Hills Stadium on July 12th! This tour is $10 for Untapped New York Insiders. Not an Insider yet? Become a member today and get your first month free with code JOINUS! Registration for this event opens at 12:00 PM ET on June 28th.

1. There Are Hidden Speakeasy Suites

Forest Hills Stadium
Photo Courtesy of Forest Hills Stadium

When you book a VIP suite for a show at Forest Hills Stadium, you aren’t just getting a private box. You get a mini adventure! Each suite is accessed by its own unique “speakeasy” entrance, whether that’s through a porta-potty or behind a vintage sign. The floor-level suites can hold 8 to 50 guests and come with a private viewing porch, private in-suite bar, and food service, access to private restrooms, a concierge service team to assist with your reservation, and expedited entry with an escort directly to your suite (so you’re sure to find the hidden entrance!). Inside, the suites are decorated with memorabilia from the stadium’s long and storied past.

2. The Beatles Landed a Helicopter on One of the Tennis Courts

The Beatles land a helicopter at Forest Hills Stadium
Photo by Henry Crossman, Courtesy of the West Side Tennis Club Foundation

The British Invasion hit Forest Hills Stadium in August 1964 as the rest of the country was swept up in Beatlemania. The Beatles played to 31,000 fans over the course of two nights at the stadium – an attendance record that the Fab Four hold to this day! Twelve hours after landing at JFK Airport, the group took a helicopter from Manhattan to the stadium where they landed on a grass tennis court (now grass court G5). On August 28th and 29th, Stevie Wonder opened the show and The Beatles followed with a 12-song set list featuring hits like “Twist and Shout,” and “Long Tall Sally.”

3. Arthur Ashe Won His 1st Official U.S. Open at FHS While Still an Amateur, and in the Army!

Mylan World TeamTennis tournament

Arthur Ashe had to overcome many obstacles on his way to winning his 1st U.S. Open at Forest Hills Stadium in 1968. This victory made him the first African American man to win a Grand Slam event, and the first American to win the U.S Open since Tony Trabert took home the trophy in 1955. At the time, Ashe was just 25 years old and still an amateur. This status made him ineligible to receive the first-place prize of $14,000. Instead, he took home a $20 per diem. He was also actively serving as a lieutenant in the Army when he won. Raised in a segregated Richmond, Virginia, Ashe broke racial barriers and rose to the highest levels of tennis competition. Throughout his life, he championed players of marginalized communities and those affected by AIDS, the disease that took his life in 1993. Today, the new home of the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park bears his name.

4. Jimi Hendrix Was Booed Off Stage

Jimi Hendrix on stage at Forest Hills Stadium
Jimi Hendrix in Concert: 1967-227-002-014 Forrest Hills, Queens, New York, USA 1967 Photo by Jerry Schatzberg, Courtesy of Forest Hills Stadium

While most performers receive a warm welcome at Forest Hills Stadium, that wasn’t the case for Jimi Hendrix. The legendary guitar player was the opening act for The Monkees in 1967. The group wanted to change their bubblegum pop image into something a bit more psychedelic. While the band was thrilled to have Hendrix open for them, their female fans were less than enthused. When prompted to sing along to “Foxy Lady,” the impatient crowd instead shouted “Foxy Davy” (referring to The Monkees’ heartthrob singer). Restless fans wanted to see the poppy band that graced their TV screens and quickly grew tired Hendrix’s raucous guitar playing. Fed up with the hostile reception, Hendrix stormed off the stage, flipping off the audience and throwing down his guitar on the way out. He later asked to be released from his contract and the rest of the tour.

5. Where to Find a Hidden Dive Bar from the 1970s in Forest Hills Stadium

Forest Thrills Bar
Image Courtesy of Forest Hills Stadium

Forest Thrills is a hidden bar tucked away beyond Portal 1. Inside, you’ll find taxidermy décor, throwback games, and a laidback, dive-bar vibe. Its obscured location makes for shorter drink lines. The story behind the inspiration for the bar goes like this: The space was originally used as a secret clubhouse for groundskeeper Chip “Blarney” Kowalski’s son in the 1960s. The kid would play there while his dad tended to the grounds. In the mid-1970s, the space was rediscovered and turned into a bar for performers and the grounds crew. After the bar shuttered in 1979, it stayed dormant for nearly 40 years. Then, in the spring of 2019, No Fine Print revamped the space and opened up the bar you see today. In between sets, you can sip on a glass of wine or a refreshing Lil Fizz and munch on snacks!

6. 4-Time Forest Hills Stadium Tennis Champion Alice Marble Was Also WW2 Spy?

Forest Hills Stadium
Photo by Bryan Kwon, Courtesy of Forest Hills Stadium

Alice Marble led quite an adventurous life. She came to fame on the grass tennis courts of Forest Hills, winning U.S. Open Championships in four out of five years from 1936 to 1940. Her professional career, however, was short-lived, as it was interrupted by the outbreak of World War II. She did her part to help the war effort by playing exhibition tennis matches and promoting war bonds. Then, after she claims her air force officer husband was shot down and killed over Germany while in combat, she became entrenched in the world of espionage. According to her posthumously released memoir, Courting Danger, in 1945 Marble accepted a U.S. intelligence mission that required her to connect with a former lover, Hans Steinmetz. The Swiss banker was her key to important Nazi financial data. As her memoir relates, Marble was shot by a Nazi agent while making her escape. She recovered from the wound and went on to lead a glamorous life. While Marble’s wartime tales had largely been accepted at face value, some researchers have cast doubt on the veracity of her story in recent years. What’s undeniable is Marble’s incredible tennis record and her legacy of fighting for Civil Rights in the sports industry.

7. A Safe From the US Open Hasn’t Been Opened for 45 Years

US Open Safe
Photo Courtesy of Forest Hills Stadium

A safe from the days when Forest Hills Stadium hosted the U.S. Open has remained unopened for over 45 years. This summer, to mark the stadium’s 100th anniversary, the safe will finally be unlocked and its contents revealed. Made by the Acme Safe Company, the vessel was the original cash prize container for the championships. Its contents have been a mystery since 1977 and it’s anyone’s guess as to what’s inside. You can let your prediction be known by sharing your guess on social media with the hashtag #FHS100Years. Another reason 2023 is a milestone year is that it marks a decade since the venue’s revitalization. The summer will be filled with concerts by artists like Dave Matthews Band, Fall Out Boy, Duran Duran, Artic Monkeys, and more, as well as several multi-day festivals.

8. Forest Hills Stadium Is Carbon Neutral

Overhead view of Forest Hills Stadium
Photo Courtesy of Forest Hills Stadium

The 2023 season at Forest Hills Stadium will be carbon-neutral thanks to a variety of eco-conscious choices. Perhaps the most fun green feature of the stadium is its adaptive reuse of shipping containers. Throughout the site, guests will find 28 upcycled containers that have been transformed into bars, bathrooms, dressing rooms, and other functional spaces. The stadium is also partnering with various sustainability-focused companies to achieve its goal of becoming climate positive.

9. Perks of the Golden Apple Package

Forest Hills Stadium at night for a concert
Photo by Bryan Kwon, Courtesy of Forest Hills Stadium

The best way to elevate your concert viewing experience at Forest Hills Stadium is to opt for the Golden Apple Package. This ticket add-on gets you exciting perks such as exclusive access for one guest to the backstage lounge (and the private cash bar), two complimentary beverages, early access to the floor for GA shows to ensure you have the best view, and private restrooms. You can keep the fun going even longer at a special last call bar that is open 30 minutes past the encore.

10. Scenes From Famous Movies Were Filmed at Forest Hills Stadium

Forest Hills Stadium
Photo Courtesy of Forest Hills Stadium

Forest Hills Stadium has been seen on screen in a variety of films over the past 100 years including Hitchcock’s thrilling classic Strangers on a Train and Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenebaums. Hitchcock’s crew captured footage of the 1950 Davis Cup which was edited into the film. In The Royal Tenebaums, the location is seen in a flashback to the career-ending tennis match of Luke Wilson’s character Richie.

Backstage Forest Hills Stadium Tour

Forest Hills Stadium

Continue to explore Forest Hills Stadium on our Untapped New York Insiders tour on July 12th!

Next, check out 10 Secrets of Forest Hills, Queens and Discover the Forgotten Forest Hills Tea Garden