Game, Set, Match: USTA Team Wins Excellence in Construction Award for North America's Largest Tennis Facility

by Yumi Clevenger

It’s been a good year for the United States Tennis Association (USTA). Following the January opening of the USTA’s 65-acre National Campus in Orlando, four players (Sloan Stephens, Madison Keys, CoCo Vandeweghe and Venus Williams) became the first American women in 36 years to sweep all semi-final spots at the U.S. Open in September—guaranteeing a “home turf” win at this year’s final grand slam tournament.

Nearly a month later, the project team, who helped make the “new home for American tennis” a reality, took center stage and won a coveted Eagle Award for the USTA’s National Campus project from the Central Florida Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC).

USTA's campus, designed by HKS and built by DPR, is designed to train and prepare the next generation of American tennis stars. Courtesy of HKS

Located in Orlando, the campus, designed by HKS and built by DPR, is designed to help train and prepare the next generation of American tennis stars. The facility consists of the following:

  • 260,000 sq. ft. of vertical construction across eight buildings
  • 100 tennis courts, including the only true European red clay courts in the U.S. and 26 courts equipped with smart court technology that can show exactly where the ball lands relative to the in/out lines
  • 55,000-sq.-ft. corporate headquarters that features a pro shop and conference space
  • 47,000-sq.-ft. player development facility with six Rebound Ace indoor courts, a training suite, Hydroworx therapy tubs and viewing platforms
  • UCF Collegiate Center with 12 courts, locker rooms, trainer room and 1,500-seat grand stand
  • Lodge to house 24 professional athletes providing housing and dining facilities onsite
The campus includes a 55,000-sq.-ft. corporate headquarters that features a pro shop and conference space. Courtesy of HKS

According to DPR’s Jay Althouse, the team faced numerous challenges in completing the project, including the fact that the asphalt mixture used on the main courts had rarely been used before. The custom material mix required the team to construct the courts with an exact sequence of timing. Rolling and compacting the asphalt had to be consistent to achieve precise densities and planarity. Laser scanning technology was used to accurately measure the required flatness and achieve the high-quality product where some of the nation’s best play.

Another challenge was the 200 tons of red clay procured and imported from Italy to build the same European clay courts used in the French Open. The clay arrived in five-pound bags, totaling 80,000 bags of red clay that had to be meticulously placed and rolled to complete the courts.

The USTA campus includes 100 tennis courts. Courtesy of HKS

The DPR team met those challenges and then some, to deliver the world's most advanced tennis facility. Using pull planning and short-interval plans to reach project milestones, the team developed a sequencing plan that enabled the office building on the campus to be completed four months ahead of schedule, allowing the USTA to move staff onsite.

Special consideration to the project’s neighboring environment also remained an important element during design and construction. The project team was sensitive to the neighboring wetlands and an active bald eagle nest within the preserve.

Located near wetlands and an active bald eagle's nest, the team created a protected area around the nest and monitored it daily to avoid disruption. Courtesy of DPR Construction

“We placed a 330-ft. protected area around the nest that we monitored daily during the nesting season,” said Althouse. “No construction could occur within the protected area if any activity near the nest was detected. We re-sequenced construction activities to avoid any disruption.” The team built an access road and worked closely with utility companies to bring power, water and sewer services to the site.

From courts for children, to professional red clay courts designed to train for the French Open, to ADA compliant courts, the USTA National Campus was designed and constructed with every skill set in mind, advancing the sport at all levels. At the highest level, with the highest quality, and the highest amount of collaboration, the DPR and HKS teams were able to deliver a product that will be a game changer for American tennis.