The crowd at Louis Armstrong Stadium was growing restless, and so was Andy Murray. Murray, the 2012 United States Open champion, had just taken a two-sets-to-one lead on James Duckworth, and Duckworth had left the court for a bathroom break.
Instead of resting courtside, Murray stalked the baseline, bouncing a ball against his racket strings. Meanwhile, fans waited in line at nearby concessions stands, wondered aloud about how top-seeded Simona Halep had lost to Kaia Kanepi in the first match on Armstrong a couple hours before. They positioned themselves along the railing that rimmed the court’s lower-level seating area. All of that noisy action continued even when play resumed in the fourth set.
The old Armstrong stadium was the ultimate tennis bandbox, an intimate venue that allowed fans to feel like they were sitting on top of the court. On Monday, fans, and players, were treated to a version of the intimacy they had hoped to find in the new stadium; the breeze they had prayed for on a sweltering afternoon; and, in some parts, the shade created by portions of the retractable roof (the old Armstrong had little shelter).
What United States Tennis Association officials didn’t count on, though, was the constant hum of people ordering food in an open-air arena, and then eating it at umbrella-covered tables that are a stone’s throw from the court.
“We commented to each other about how noisy it was” on the concourse level, said Lisa Kimball of Outer Banks, N.C., who was attending her first U.S. Open with her husband, Allen.
They decided to forsake their upper-level seats at Arthur Ashe Stadium to sit closer to the action on Armstrong.
Sloane Stephens, who played third on Armstrong Monday, also used the word noisy repeatedly to describe the atmosphere.
But Allen Kimball noted that in the upper level of Armstrong, away from the food stands was much quieter.
Danny Zausner, the chief operating officer of the U.S.T.A. Billie King National Tennis Center, who oversaw construction of Armstrong, said he believed the noise problem was temporary.
“We have that on Ashe during the first week too as more casual tennis fans go in and out a lot,” he added. “When we move into the second week of the tournament, you can hear a pin drop in there.”
Zausner did say that if the noise distracted players, he would consider limiting access to the ring around the concourse level to those with reserved tickets for those seats.
U.S.T.A. officials were ill-prepared for the chaos when fans leaving Halep’s match were trying to descend one of two sets of staircases at the same time as spectators for Murray’s match were trying to ascend them. Zausner saw the crush between matches and took note.
“This is all trial by fury,” said Zausner, who plans to make immediate adjustments, like designating sections of the staircases for separate up-and-down travel. “We’re learning people’s traffic patterns and changing things to accommodate them. We don’t want to wait until next year. We want to fix things now.”
Armstrong’s first evening session, requiring a separate ticket for admission, was sparsely attended, especially for the 7 p.m. match featuring Victoria Azarenka and Viktoria Kuzmova. On Ashe at the same time, the pop singer Kelly Clarkson entertained and then Serena Williams beat Magda Linette. More fans came to Armstrong later to watch Juan Martín del Potro, the 2009 champion, take on the American Donald Young.
Still, helped by the new swath of tickets to sell, the Open set a single-day attendance record Monday.
Neil and Robin Baritz from Boca Raton, Fla., have held reserved-seat subscriptions in both Ashe and Armstrong stadiums for the last 31 years. On Monday, rather than sitting in row H on Armstrong they had moved back to row W, into the shade provided by the overhang of the new roof.
“This place is great, but it’s really hot down there,” Neil Baritz said. “Look, all of the coaches have towels over their heads.”
Baritz also noted that none of the television monitors perched on the concourse were working Monday afternoon (many viewers at home also complained on social media about the camera angles used in Armstrong during the TV broadcast). And by the evening session, one of the two escalators had broken down four times.
But none of the players seemed to mind any of the opening-day issues too much. Kanepi called the new court “cute,” while Murray loved the look of it.
“It’s also a bit easier to play on than the old Armstrong,” said Murray, who beat Duckworth in four sets. “It’s more sheltered from the wind although you can get a breeze in there.”
Even Halep praised the new venue. “It’s beautiful,” she said. “I’m happy I was the first one there, even if I lost.”
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