How a Big Hairy Audacious Goal has reimagined the U.S. Open


The super-macro optic promotes reimagination and reinvention for sport events and venues in a way that facilitates revolutionary change versus incremental change. Incremental change is a wonderful way to continually improve a storied event with an adherence to the original vision and purpose of an event or venue. The Masters in Augusta is probably the best example of strict adherence to an original mission and vision while continually improving to near perfection. However, if one is looking to make the enormous leap to reinvention, a macro lens is required. This is the approach applied by the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) and ROSSETTI in looking at how the U.S. Open had blossomed into something so impactful in New York, as well as the Grand Slams, that it was now capable of the next leap.

A large sports campus such as the USTA’s Billie Jean King (BJK) National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., is like a city. This year, the 46.5 acre site is hosting approximately 700,000 people over the course of the two-week event. The site contains four stadiums, 22 courts, 16 dining options, five practice courts, seven shopping areas and 33 booths and attractions, as well as amenities and support facilities for fans, players, press, sponsors and staff. In addition to this two-week crush of people, the site is steadily used year-round for community, recreational and training activities.

For many years, the vision for the BJK National Tennis Center was focused on enhancing “tennis in the park.” Improvements to the site were done to maintain the stature of the U.S. Open, essentially through the lens of functional aspects of playing and viewing tennis. In 2010, the other three Grand Slam events were making significant investments. While the BJK Tennis Center was the largest and most successful, it also needed major improvements. Improving functionality was not going to be enough to maintain the position of the U.S. Open as the largest and greatest Grand Slam in the world.


What the site needed was a BHAG. According to James Collins and Jerry Porras in their 1994 book entitled “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies,” a BHAG stands for Big Hairy Audacious Goal. It’s a strategic business statement, similar to a vision statement, created to focus an organization on a single goal, which is audacious to many, but internally regarded as possible.

By this time, the event had already become an unparalleled celebration of the game. Celebrities, glamour and a see-and-be-seen phenomenon were propelling the U.S. Open into more than just a tennis event. Taking the site to the next level required a BHAG, but what was it? A series of workshops were held with USTA stakeholders to explore the scene of the U.S. Open. So grand and emotionally stirring, the U.S. Open taps into the visceral senses on par with World Cup, Olympics and other comparable events. Words like “wondrous,” “remarkable,” “defining,” “engaging” and “alluring” are used as descriptors. Together we defined this new vision as “spectacle.”

We had found our BHAG — to reimagine the event from tennis in the park into a spectacle on the same level as an event like the Olympics. This became the guiding principle to inform the design, differentiate the U.S. Open from the competition, develop distinct personality traits and integrate sponsor partnerships.

With the BHAG established and the buy-in of stakeholders completed, master planning the design of the site became laser focused. The big moves necessary to maintain the event as No. 1 in the world began to fall into place, including adding a roof to Arthur Ashe Stadium, expanding the site footprint to relocate stadiums, adding amenities, creating follies and replacing both Grandstand and Armstrong stadiums. As the 2014 U.S. Open heads toward completion, the USTA is well on its way of reaching the audacious goal of creating a spectacle year after year at the U.S. Open.


Matt Rossetti, FAIA, LEED AP, is the President of ROSSETTI. His focus is on creating design that resonates value to clients: aesthetically, functionally and, most importantly, by achieving their business goals. To accomplish this, Matt founded ROSSETTI’s Return On DesignTM approach which predicts value-oriented design for the investment.  The firm has generated innovative design solutions across a range of sports including tennis, soccer, hockey, basketball and football. He has been at the forefront of urban revitalization by integrating sports and entertainment developments with mixed-use master planning. In 2012, Matt was elevated to the College of Fellows by the American Institute of Architects for his expertise, study and work in the field. 

ROSSETTI-designed venues include: USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Incheon Football Stadium and Sungui Arena Park, Van Andel Arena, and the Tele2 Arena (with White Architects) and Stockholm Globe Arenas. www.ROSSETTI.COM

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