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Officials look to bring music back to Forest Hills stadium

The West Side Tennis Club, featured here in a 1940s era postcard, is making the push to bring music back to the stadium in Forest Hills. Image courtesy Rego-Forest Preservation Council
TimesLedger Newspapers

Acoustics at an iconic tennis stadium in Forest Hills might carry sound once again.

Rumors began swirling last week that operators of the West Side Tennis Stadium were inspecting the structure’s integrity for the possible return of concerts and other events to the venerable venue.

Now a neighborhood preservationist says those inspections did happen and a return of the stadium’s glory days is on the horizon.

“The rumors that have been circulating are true,” said Michael Perlman, chairman of the Rego-Forest Preservation Council. “The West Side Tennis Club is closely exploring the idea about opening up the stadium to accommodate a small quantity of classical and modern music concerts which respect the club and the surrounding community as well as tennis and ice skating.”

Perlman said based on his conversations with tennis club President Roland Meier, a gradual restoration for the stadium is on the way. Meier, who is out of the country and could not be reached for comment, told Perlman a summer filled with events, such as the first New York Open and concerts, will commemorate the stadium’s 100th anniversary and raise money for its structural refurbishment.

“The events will generate support and a potential means for restoring the stadium,” Perlman said. “As someone who grew up in Forest Hills for the past 30 years and takes pride in the community, and as a historic preservationist, I plan to continue to fulfill my goals by helping the West Side Tennis Club restore and creatively reuse the iconic stadium.”

The city Landmarks Preservation Commission last year considered landmarking the stadium, which played host to the first US Open in 1923, but concluded upkeep for the arena would be too costly to return it to landmark status. The commission cited water damage and crumbling concrete as the main reasons for the structure’s ineligibility.

The stadium hosted the US Open until 1978, when the event shifted to Flushing Meadows Corona Park, and during its history the stadium held concerts by iconic musical acts such as The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and many others.

The days of rock concerts are long gone, however, as nearby residents complained of the raucous crowds, litter and parking problems brought on by the performances.

Community Board 6 District Manager Frank Gulluscio said the board does not currently have a position on a return of music to the neighborhood.

“We’re waiting to see how this develops,” he said.

State Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) said he supports the plan to revitalize the building in a way that is positive for the community.

“I’m looking forward to working with the members of the West Side Tennis Club to help them generate revenue to make capital improvements to their facilities in a way that has the least negative impact possible on the surrounding community and our neighbors,” he said.

Meanwhile, Perlman said reviving the tennis stadium will generate jobs and interest in Forest Hills — and that is music to his ears.

“A rebirth of the stadium for the club and the greater community can give new generations a chance to benefit from its storied history and its distinctive architectural character,” he said. “It can also boost jobs as well as boost business and our quality of life locally and beyond. This will put Forest Hills back on the map.”

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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