Now, the horseshoe-shape stadium, which provides a view of the Tudor-style homes of Forest Hills Gardens, is putting the finishing touches on a multimilion dollar overhaul, before the season of summer concerts begins there this weekend.
The Zac Brown Band kicks things off in Forest Hills this Saturday, with other major acts including the Replacements and Drake set to come later in the summer. The stadium started hosting live shows again last summer after decades of inactivity.
To accommodate the new fans, about 1,200 seats have been installed in the lower portion of the stadium. Concertgoers in the upper part of the stadium will sit on metal benches, which the concert organizers said will give them a better angle to see the stage. The aisles have been widened, new handrails installed and artists will also perform on a new stage.
The organizers also decreased the number of available tickets. The number of ticket sold for each show will vary from 12,500 to 13,500.
All seats will be numbered to address the issue organizers faced last year, when the fans who went for a bathroom break were not able to return to their seats. Jon McMillan, one of the event producers, said that the group is considering installing permanent bathrooms at the stadium in the future, but for now concert goers will have to make do with Porta-A-Potties.
“It’s going to function more like a festival site,” he said.
Designed by Mark Fisher, a renowned designer who created sets for Pink Floyd, U2 and the Rolling Stones, the new stage was initially built to host concerts at a tennis center in Toronto, but later abandoned.
After renovating it earlier this year, the concert organizers disassembled the stage and brought it to Forest Hills and installed it at the stadium in May.
“It’s going to stay here forever,” said McMillan referring to the new stage, while leading a tour of the renovated venue earlier this week. “It’s a new kind of iconic piece of Forest Hills."
The group invested several million dollars to get the venue, which opened in 1923, ready for a series of summer concerts.
The stadium used to host the U.S. Open, before it moved to the larger National Tennis Center in Flushing in 1977. It also held numerous concerts, including performances by Frank Sinatra and the Rolling Stones.
Most concerts stopped by the late 1980s, after opposition from local residents.
The venue later fell into disrepair, but last year the West Side Tennis Club partnered with the concert promoters to bring events back to the neighborhood.
Last August, the group launched its first concert, with Mumford & Sons attracting nearly 17,000 fans to Forest Hills.
Before that concert, McMillan said, the organizers conducted a first round of renovations, which included patching the concrete exterior walls of the stadium and removing the old seats.
The rehabilitation also included building a new entrance on Burns Street that was further from residential buildings than the main entrance on Tennis Place.
He also noted that currently, “the stadium is in the best shape that it’s been since it was built.”
Among the artists who will play at the stadium this season will be Modest Mouse and Brand New, scheduled for Aug. 9, Drake vs Lil Wayne, who will appear on Aug. 19, and the Replacements, the Hold Steady, Deer Tick, slated to perform on Friday, Sept. 19.