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NEW YORK (AFP) – The U.S. Open will become the third Grand Slam tennis event to have a roof to protect main-stadium matches from rain and will have two covered venues by 2018.

A $550 million renovation project will see a $100 million retractable roof covering Arthur Ashe Stadium as soon as 2016, U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) officials said Monday as the year’s final Grand Slam tournament began on the Flushing Meadows hardcourts.

That two-year protect, to be finished by 2017 at the latest, will be followed by the building of a new roofed Louis Armstrong Stadium to be done in 2017 or 2018.

“The players have given us feedback over the years that they would like a roof,” USTA president Dave Haggerty said. “A lot of the things we have done will really enhance the player experience.”

U.S. Open men’s finals have been postponed by rain to Monday for the past five years. This year and next, the men’s final is scheduled for a Monday in a move to give players a rest day between the semi-finals and finals.

Wimbledon and the Australian Open already boast main stadiums with coverings while the French Open will begin construction of a roof in 2015 with completion set for 2018.

Sessions wiped out by rain have proven costly to the USTA in prior years, although USTA executive director Gordon Smith said the washouts did not cost organizers any television revenue.

“There have been several years where we have had multiple sessions lost and we were offering ticket exchanges, so there has been a financial impact,” said National Tennis Center chief operating officer Danny Zausner.

The roof on Ashe will consist of a flexible translucent fabric stretched over a steel frame like an umbrella over the 23,000, supported by eight steel columns surrounding the stadium. It will take only five minutes to deploy.

The heavy duty roof fabric has a lifespan of more than 30 years and can support snow piles if necessary as well as hold up to safety rules created in the wake of Hurricane Sandy devastation in the region.

Video screens will be moved to the corners of the stadium and lighting will move into the steel girders that provide roofing support.

And it’s cheaper than the prior plans considered when looking at a roof for Ashe in the past few years.

“The cost of the roof now is substantially lower than it was in earlier designs,” Smith said. “Matt (Rosetti, the roof planner) has done a great job at value engineering something that is affordable.”

Under the renovation plan, the U.S. Open would not lose any courts during remodeling, although temporary stands might be used at Louis Armstrong Stadium one year during the rebuilding process, which will see the adjacent grandstand relocated to the opposite corner of the facility.

Stadium capacities will also grow, allowing organizers to sell 10,000 more tickets for each day session. The 8,000-seat Grandstand will have 2,000 more seats than the current one. The new Armstrong Stadium will boast 15,000 setas, 4,500 more than now.

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Photo by The White House

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