The United States Tennis Association (USTA) put the finishing touches on the new Grandstand Stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. As part of a 10-year, $550 million revamp, dubbed the “Sports Spectacle Vision Plan,” of the entire 46-acre campus, the stadium has been relocated to the campus’s southwest corner to alleviate circulation issues and to establish a more even distribution of people and venues throughout the campus.
The new Grandstand Stadium is designed by the firm Rossetti, which was also behind the iconic Arthur Ashe Stadium. The new tennis space will have increased capacity, with nearly 2,000 more seats throughout its 125,000 square feet of space. The structure has been outfitted with 486 panels that surround the stadium and upper walkways that allow for expansive views of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center campus.
While the entire campus re-vamp isn’t scheduled for completion until 2018, the Grandstand Stadium was completed in time for this year’s 2016 US Open. Among the highlights of the renovation for this year’s event was the construction of a new kitchen in the basement of the new Grandstand Stadium as well as a number of new concession stands. The kitchen side of the project was done by The Sam Tell Companies duo of Jerry Hoffman and Nick Morelli.
The kitchen renovation was a 3 million dollar job, which began on January 1st. This project has not been the easiest for the Sam Tell duo; the two have been finding solutions for the variety of problems presented in this renovation. The pair were left with a kitchen renovation that is underground that had no loading dock, no freight elevator, a makeshift platform and a tight timetable. Sam Tell and Son went problem to problem utilizing new food service technology and reliable companies to find solutions.
With the kitchen being located in the basement of the new stadium, the Hoffman/Morelli duo faced a challenge of how to create proper ventilation. “Giles offered a line of innovative products including an electric fryer design with a built in ventless hood, and an assortment of recalculating ventilation hoods,” Morelli said. Other aspects such as fabrics were relieved by Aero. “I can’t say enough about the combination of flexibility and quality that Aero brought to the project. With the tight deadlines, it made our lives easier knowing that all of our custom fabrication was being produced in Aero’s facility in ‘Jersey,” Hoffman added.
With limited storage and the need to quickly clean dishes, glasses and flatware for the ‘Opening day and evening sessions, the selection of ware washing capacity was crucial. “With the selection of Champion brought us so much experience in working in a number of different challenging spaces and in being able to handle such intense volume. Champion enabled us to create a solution for preparation, cleaning and serving as many as 20,000 dishes per hour,” Hoffmann said.
Hoffman and Morelli persevered and were able to complete the brand new commissary in the brand new grandstand stadium. Aside from the commissary, the Sam Tell duo added brand new bars, newsstands, a wine bar, oyster bar, and concession stands. Sam Tell also updated some of the facilities on campus with new equipment all while keeping the original design and structure intact. Their approach to creating the cooking capacity necessary to feed tens of thousand of tennis fans included Star and Lang griddles. “With the ability to prepare multiple day parts from bacon and pancakes at breakfast to grilled cheese sandwiches to burgers for lunches and salmon to steaks for dinner. The Star and Lang griddle will give the Levy culinary team the firepower and peace of mind needed to keep up with peak demand,” Hoffman said.
“Pizza has become such an important part of our guest experience,” noted Levy Restaurant corporate chef Jim Abbey. “New York City is so well known for its pizza that we knew we had to find the right oven to create a great pizza. With Marra Forni, we were able to bring an authentic Neapolitan oven and flavor to our guests.
Marra Forni’s Francesco and Enzo Marra came to the US a decade ago with a goal of combining old fashioned Italian craftsmanship and the latest in technology and innovation in a domestically built line of Pizza ovens. “Most importantly, Marra Forni enabled us to overcome big challenges,” Abbey continued. “We knew that we would have gas to work with in our Food Village stands but we only had access to electric in the new stadium. The Marra Forni oven enabled us to provide the identical taste profile in both venues,” Abbey continued.
The kitchen is one thing but running a kitchen facility that feeds over half a million people in a span of two weeks is another. We chatted with Craig Appel of Levy Restaurants to hear what they had planned for the U.S. Open revamp. Levy Restaurants’ goal was to create the best possible stadium dining experience that reflects what is going on in the broader New York restaurant scene. “We strive to offer something for everyone, from elegant dining to casual street eats, the dining options at the US Open reflect the vast and varied audience who attend the event,” Craig said. USTA envisioned an industry leading experience from suites to streets that represented the global flavor of the event and the ever-changing pallets of the guests.
The Levy team operated as an extension of USTA and created a dining experience of just that. The Levy Team brought in a team of champions with 250 managers and chefs from Levy venues all over the country. Along with partnerships with local New York restaurants and chefs, such as David Chang’s Fuku, David Burkes’s BLT Fish Shack, Angry Taco, Soomsoom, and Korilla BBQ. All of these local partnerships were added into the expansion of the food village and offered in suite dining which gave guests a taste of the hottest culinary trends in NYC.
Levy was still faced with an uphill battle, as they had to prepare to run 7 total kitchens, concession stands, and suites with kitchen capabilities, all focused on serving over 700,000 guests. Not to mention the demands of Levy’s all-star team of chefs including local icons David Burke, David Chang and Masaharu Morimoto who all require the highest quality reach in refrigeration. “I still think about Traulsen’s roots right around the corner from the tennis center in College Point,” Hoffman noted. “We selected Traulsen for the USTA because the technology that they put in their units leads to long-term savings. When you think about Traulsen, you know you are getting quality hinges, seals and handles built to withstand constant use with the very latest in airflow, cooling defrosting, energy efficiency and ergonomics,” said Hoffman.
The expanded concession refrigeration needs to provide yet another challenge with the wide diversity of fare being offered to tennis fans. “We used Beverage Air extensively to solve the challenge of such intense demand. We knew that with Bev-Air they bring a state of the industry commitment to technology that makes food safety a priority and creates a look for the customer that maximizes impulse buying,” Morelli added.
Along with the new kitchen and concessions requiring an extensive expansion for walk-in capacity, “Arctic walk-ins provided both the experience of maximizing the utilization of space and the quality of construction required for a project of this size,” Morelli explained. “Their laminated solid-core board foam panels, foamed-in-place panels and the construction of their doors with ABS plastic and steel supports made Arctic the right choice for us,” Morelli continued.