A Day at the US Open

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© Kristina Joyas, AALC

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© Kristina Joyas, AALC

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The Unisphere at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park © Jodena Michel, AALC

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© Jodena Michel, AALC

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A view of the Hall of Champions © Jodena Michel, AALC

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© Jodena Michel, AALC

The US Open is one of the biggest sporting events in New York City and the nation. It’s a special part of the tennis season that celebrates the end of summer and the last major tournament where one can find all the favorite players annually. 

To tennis devotees in America, it’s a privilege to stop by the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and roam the grounds. For some spectators even the chance to visit for one day is enough to fulfill their tennis dreams for the year.

The US Open is also a special tradition for the AALC. For years, our staff and volunteers have been a staple on the grounds spreading Arthur’s story. Here’s what a typical day at the US Open is like for us: 

The Early Birds We at the AALC, whether we’re working at the booth or not, tend to come early and enjoy the atmosphere. If you take the scenic route to the stadium, you can take a stroll through Flushing Meadow-Corona Park and watch the sun peak through the Unisphere. This structure is an icon of Queens, New York and serves as a unofficial symbol for the borough. 

From there, you can enter through the South Gates where you are welcomed by the Hall of Champions and the Arthur Ashe Memorial Plaza. Here you are immersed with the stories of tennis icons and can immediately feel the energy of great sportsmanship and competition that is about to happen.

The Grounds No matter what the weather is – overcast or sunny – there is a feeling that it’s going to be a good day. Many staff at the booths and on the grounds are seasoned regulars who come annually, so there is a sense of community when you walk through those gates. You can see players and coaches alike heading to practice or casually hanging out in the food areas. Once in a while you’ll see a wave of ballpeople, complete in matching uniforms, heading into a stadium. The general hustle and bustle of opening the booths is going on all around-things like packages and carts going to their designated locations, taking out displays and wiping down counters. A big plus is that you never know who you’ll see at this time of day. It’s always a delight to bump into someone like tennis pro Thanasi Kokkinakis on your way to the booth. 

The best thing to do this early in the morning is to roam around the outside courts and watch the players warming up. One could leisurely eat their breakfast and see some of the sports rising stars and underdogs drill for the upcoming day’s challenge. If you’re clever with your timing it’s possible to watch a few matches, jumping from Louis Armstrong to Court 17, and get your fill before a shift. For those who are interested in experiencing the Open but on a budget, getting grounds passes might be the best way to do it affordably. You’ll get similar access to Armstrong and Grandstand stadiums and can plan your day around the less televised matches. During the first week, some of the best matches are those done by players ranked 30-50. They are closer in skill level which means a more competitive match. 

The Booth The highlight of our volunteers’ and staff’s day is spending time at the Arthur Ashe Learning Center Booth. The booth attracts regular and new visitors all with the admiration of Arthur’s work on and off the court. A lot of people who stop by are educators who want to help spread his story to their students or parents that want their kids to know who Arthur is. Long time supporters also stop by to pick up a piece of merchandise paying homage to the US Open’s first champion and main stadium namesake. 

We also love getting visits from youngsters! We hand out activity books for kids ages 7-14 that share Arthur’s values and story along with crayons and stickers for fun. It emphasizes healthy activities, sports history, academics, and civic engagement – all things that Arthur promoted during his life. 

Moments when we get to actively engage with Arthur’s fans are some of our favorites. To have a dialogue about his initiatives–whether its his promotion of youth or civic activism–allows us to continue his legacy. There are countless stories of fans who tell us how they met Arthur once and he influenced their life or that he was a hero and source of inspiration since childhood. At our booth, we tell Arthur’s story to serve as a gentle reminder that you can do so much by taking advantage of the opportunities provided to you. And by doing so, your legacy can continue to inspire even after your time has passed.

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