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Roof still on US Open's long list of improvements

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NEW YORK (AP)

Someday, a roof will cover Arthur Ashe Stadium at the U.S. Open.

But it will cost a lot - at least nine figures - and it won't delay other projects that leaders of the USTA believe are mandatory at the home of the year's final Grand Slam. Currently, there are roofs on the main stadiums at Wimbledon and the Australian Open.

In a briefing with reporters Sunday, the eve of the start of the U.S. Open, USTA chief executive Gordon Smith reiterated a point he's made in the past: That the technology does not yet exist to put a roof on top of the 23,700-capacity stadium but that he's also confident that will change.

''I cannot tell you when that will be,'' Smith said. ''I can't tell you what it will cost, though it will clearly be over nine figures.''

Meantime, he outlined a series of plans - first unveiled in June - to expand the Billie Jean King Tennis Center, including a rebuild of 10,000-seat Louis Armstrong Stadium, which would be constructed to someday accommodate a roof of its own.

The topic of covering Arthur Ashe Stadium comes up almost annually, especially in the wake of four straight years when rain has delayed play and forced the tournament to finish on a Monday.

That, in turn, has forced the USTA to give back undisclosed amounts of money to CBS, which televises the final weekend and has had to show the men's final on Monday afternoons.

''But the amount of money we've lost by not having a roof and the amount of money we might make by adding a roof is negligible compared to the cost of adding a roof,'' Smith said.

Smith said the weight of the stadium and the loose soil beneath it would make it impossible, with today's technology, to put a roof on top. He said the other idea was to erect a building around the stadium that would cover it, but those plans were too unwieldy and would almost certainly not be approved by the city and state.

''Monstrosities,'' USTA chairman and president Jon Vegosen called those proposed buildings. ''But we're going to have a roof one day. I just can't tell you when.''

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