Teddy Roosevelt once remarked on the commercialization of sports: “When money comes in at the gate, the game goes out the window.” With Wimbledon in high gear and tennis at the Olympics looming, tennis is getting more than its share of commercial attention lately. Just last month the United States Tennis Association announced it would spend a half billion dollars to upgrade the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows Queens, where the U.S. Open is played. The project is linked to the $3 billion Willets Point project.
The unabashedly commercial enterprise is somewhat countered by a decidedly democratic project well underway at Crotona Park in the Bronx. There, the nonprofit New York Junior Tennis League, founded by the late Arthur Ashe, and the Parks Department are midway through completing a $22 million international tennis center designed by Peter Gluck and Partners. The Bronx and Queens projects are graphic examples of how a historically exclusive sport has become populist.
Nevertheless, McKim, Mead and White‘s lawn tennis clubs, like the Germantown Cricket Club in Philadelphia, still court old-school patrons with club rooms for bridge and a menu featuring turtle soup. And Dattner Architects’ designs for Cordish Family Pavilion at Princeton University brings its own brand of up-to-date elegance back to the game.
Regardless of the project, whether its big business in Queens, public/private in the Bronx, private in Princeton, or very private in Philadelphia, tennis architecture seems to have always found a way to allow money in at the gate.