Live From the US Open: Gorsuch Steadies USTA Ship in Sea of Change
Renovations at Billie Jean King Tennis Center complicates this year's tournament
For 13 years, USTA Director of Broadcast Operations Steve Gorsuch has seen a lot of changes at the US Open, but it is safe to say that the number of changes from last year to this will be tough to top. And that is thanks to two key developments: ESPN’s expanded broadcast role and the vast number of renovations taking place across the Billie Jean King Tennis Center.
“There are a lot of new camera angles that are very exciting, like the Railcam and the Hoistcam,” says Gorsuch. “And then the freeD system is terrific, and there is the HawkEye with ultra-motion, so there are new elements on the broadcast side that energize it. But then, on the USTA side of things, there is a light show for the evening sessions that makes it more energized as well. And that is possible only because of the new LED lighting system that can be turned on in five seconds. It’s terrific for the fan’s experience.”
Between the end of last year’s Open and the start of this year’s, there was plenty of construction, with Arthur Ashe Stadium getting a new roof and a new Grandstand Court being built. Both those projects are expected to be completed by next year’s Open, but the impact of those projects and others is always a concern for those who know that earth movers can wreak havoc on cable infrastructures buried underground.
“With all the construction, we didn’t know if the fiber for the field courts would be damaged,” Gorsuch explains. “But we only had some fibers to Armstrong Stadium that got damaged, and those were easy to fix.”
Other changes to the grounds include the installation of new lighting by ESPN (with the help of Ferri Lighting) in the hallway leading to the court as well as in the interview room.
“They did a nice job, and we also needed to modernize the lighting in the press room,” says Gorsuch. “We wanted to see what it looked like and what the player’s comfort level was with the new press-room lighting.”
ESPN’s impact is literally woven into the entire Tennis Center: the number of fiber runs increased from 140 last year to more than 600, thanks primarily to the move of audio/camera-signal transport off the copper infrastructure.
“There is only one camera on copper, and that is in the player lounge in case it rains as there is no fiber connection to that area,” Gorsuch points out. “But everything else is on fiber.”
All those fibers connect to two cabins behind Arthur Ashe Stadium, which pass the signals into the two-story ESPN host- and domestic-broadcast facility designed by ESPN with a technical infrastructure designed and installed by Gearhouse Broadcast.
“This is so similar to what Gearhouse Broadcast does for the Australian Open that I was very confident that they could deliver the same kind of package,” says Gorsuch. “There is plenty of room to move around the facility, and the office space across the street is well thought out, with open creative spaces designed to allow people to sit and talk.”
Next door to the ESPN production offices are facilities for onsite international broadcasters, including Sky UK, Wowow of Japan, Eurosport, and Fox Australia.
“Fox Australia came in at the last minute because they recently launched a new 24-hour sports network,” says Gorsuch. “So they also have a flypack from Gearhouse Broadcast, as does Wowow.”
Eurosport’s presence is also larger. The broadcaster has returned to a studio location on the plaza and is also operating out of an All Mobile Video production truck.
The two-story ESPN technical facility will need to be taken down after this year’s tournament so that construction of the Arthur Ashe roof can be completed. According to Gorsuch, it is a near certainty that it will return to the same location, and there is also the possibility of a second story added to the production offices. But, for now, the focus is on finishing up what has, to date, been a successful effort.
“At the international-broadcaster meeting last week,” he says, “I said that, if ESPN was only trying to hit a triple this year, they hit and were already rounding third, and they’re going to touch every base.”