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By Bob Stockton

Roger Federer visited the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills Thursday and said it would be “a pity” if the club’s historic stadium was torn down and replaced by condos.

The membership of the West Side Tennis Club is set to vote on September 23 whether to sell the parcel of their property featuring the 87-year-old tennis stadium to real estate developer Cord Meyer, who plan to tear the stadium down and build condos.

Federer, a student of the history of the game and regarded as the most influential man in tennis, remarked that the stadium was full of history and was the site where his idol, Australian Rod Laver, won his two U.S. singles titles in 1962 and 1969 – both of which concluded historic “Grand Slam” sweeps of all four major singles titles in the same calendar year. Federer also pointed out that his former coach, Tony Roche, also played in two U.S. Open finals at Forest Hills, losing to Laver in 1969 and to Ken Rosewall in 1970.

The 16-time major tournament champion from Switzerland visited the historic club, which hosted the U.S. Championships from 1914 to 1977, for a corporate event in advance of the U.S. Open, a tournament where he has won five of the last six years. Federer said he first visited the club as a junior player when there were not enough courts for practice at the USTA National Tennis Center during the US Open.

The stadium and its future has been thrust back into the limelight with the upcoming club vote that has struck a nerve with conservationists, tennis fans and historians who feel the stadium should be preserved. U.S. Congressman Anthony Weiner (Democrat, New York) has lobbied for the stadium to be saved and has asked for the U.S. Tennis Association to become more involved in preserving the stadium. Weiner has asked USTA President Lucy Garvin to have one U.S. Open match a year be played at the stadium. The horseshoe-shaped stadium was christened in 1923 with the playing of the Wightman Cup matches between Helen Wills and the United States team and Britain. The club has also hosted 14 U.S. Davis Cup matches, the most of any facility in the United States.

Reports indicate that Cord Meyer has offered between $8 million and $9 million dollars for the stadium property. Estimates indicate that fees of approximately $15 million would be needed to refurbish the stadium, which was last fully utilized with fans sitting in the bleachers for a tennis tournament in 1990. The stadium capacity is 14,000 and has also hosted many legendary music acts through the years including The Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan and Diana Ross. The club is also speaking with the New York Philharmonic about the stadium being its summer home. Other uses of the stadium structure discussed include a hospitality venue for corporate outings, weddings, high school graduations and other celebrations and community events as well as a potential tennis academy with a full-fledged gym and dorm facilities.

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One Response to “Roger Federer: Forest Hills Stadium Destruction Would be a Pity”

  1. Nice article – I think that Mr. Federer should invest and help in the development of the Forest Hills Stadium if he feels so strongly about it, he sure has the $$$.


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