2010-07-28 / Front Page

Tennis Stadium May Be In Its Final Days

By Jason‚ÄąD. Antos

The fate of the West Side Tennis Club Stadium will be decided at a meeting of the board of directors on August 19, when members will vote on whether or not to sell the former home of the US Open to a housing developer.  
The fate of the West Side Tennis Club Stadium will be decided at a meeting of the board of directors on August 19, when members will vote on whether or not to sell the former home of the US Open to a housing developer. The days of the West Side Tennis Club Stadium at Forest Hills may be numbered. Members of the club are considering selling the historic venue to a housing developer for a sum of $8 to $10 million. The 14-acre property is surrounded by some of the most prestigious real estate in the borough and could be torn down to make way for future high-end residential housing.

All 825 members of the club are invited to an informational meeting on August 10 and those with voting rights are expected to vote on the fate of the century-old structure on August 19. The West Side Tennis Club Board of Directors requires a total vote of two-thirds in favor in order to move ahead with the project.

Club President Kenneth J. Parker declined to comment.

So far, only the acre of land covered by the stadium parcel has been chosen for possible development and it is unclear if a buyer has already been selected. The area has always been a prime location for development with the Long Island Rail Road station and Austin Street shopping area featuring numerous shops and restaurants nearby.

There are mixed feelings among residents of Forest Hills Gardens and the surrounding neighborhoods as to whether or not the stadium should remain. Many want the structure to receive landmark status,  but the board of directors recently voted not to seek designation.

Over the years, the board has met to discuss the possible sale of the stadium on several occasions. This time, however, some of the newer board members are strongly pushing for the demolition of the iconic stadium. Club members are also split on the future of the stadium, which has fallen into disrepair due to lack of use.

“There are some members who want a quick sale and to move on, but I think that at this time when real estate values are at an all-time low, it may not be the best idea,” Member Christine Schott said.

A landmark campaign is currently underway by the members of the Rego-Forest Preservation Council to save the stadium from demolition.     

“It’s devastating to think that something that is so historic could just be sold off to a developer who will demolish it in the name of progress,” Rego-Forest Preservation Council Chair Michael Perlman said. “The stadium is a landmark in every sense of the word, architecturally, culturally and socially.” 

A 50-page preservation report has been submitted by the council to the city Landmarks Preservation Commission for review. 

Fore more information, visit regoforestpreservation.blogspot.com/2010/07/save-forest-hills-tennis-stadium.html.

The West Side Tennis Club,  1 Tennis Pl., Forest Hills, was founded in 1892. The 15,000-seat horseshoe-shaped tennis venue was built in 1913 and was home to the US Open from 1915 through 1977. When the popularity of the US Open began to grow rapidly, the stadium became inadequate for accommodating the large crowds. The tournament was moved to Flushing Meadows in 1978.

The club’s property also houses an additional tennis operation with 38 courts, the famous Tudor-style clubhouse and a swimming pool.   

The stadium was also the setting for many legendary musical performances. Barbara Streisand sang there on July 12,  1964 and Harry Belafonte a few weeks later on July 31. The Beatles also came there to play on Aug. 28, 1964. The audience was kept away from the stage by an eight-foot-high fence topped with barbed wire. Tickets for the concert cost $1.95 for the cheap seats and $5.95 for the front row. Other attractions included The Rolling Stones, Diana Ross and Frank Sinatra. Bob Dylan performed on Aug. 28, 1965 and Jimi Hendrix opened for the Monkees in July 1967. 

The 1951 Alfred Hitchcock thriller, “Strangers On a Train”, was filmed at the stadium as well.

“Forest Hills and its stadium are a US  Open icon and it’s unfortunate when you lose a stadium like that with so much history,” US Open Tournament Director Jim Curley said.  

For more information, visit www.foresthillstennis.com.

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