Opening Night Celebration honoring the legacy of Arthur Ashe
Before the 2017 US Open’s first Night Session in Arthur Ashe Stadium, we hosted a special ceremony recognizing the 20th anniversary of Arthur Ashe Stadium. Billie Jean King, Arthur’s wife Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe and USTA President Katrina Adams took to the court to honor the US Open’s first champion.
During the ceremony, Billie Jean and Katrina both referenced the improvements that have been made at the National Tennis Center over the past four years, including the stadium’s new roof. In fact, the roof made its debut during this same ceremony last year, as Phil Collins performed “In the Air Tonight.”
Jeanne encouraged fans to embrace more than just Arthur’s legacy, but to put into action the values that Arthur held so dear: From education, to civil rights, to human rights.
Shania Twain performed a medley of her hits. Then Jon Batiste sang the National Anthem. The video above only features the segments I voiced for the ceremony. Below, you’ll find a full transcript of the celebration.
ANDY TAYLOR: Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome the Chairman, CEO and President of the USTA, Katrina Adams. 39-time Grand Slam Champion, Billie Jean King. And creative artist and wife of Arthur Ashe, Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe
BILLIE JEAN KING: Wow. Every time I walk onto this court, it never ever gets old. It’s so much fun! I only wish I could play.
I have such wonderful memories of the dedication of this court, and the excitement it had brought us the last 20-years. It’s simply amazing. Tonight we celebrate our history, this stadium, and the man who made a huge difference off and on the court.
As we kick-off the next chapter of the US Open, I think it’s going to be better than ever…and I want everyone to feel the hospitality that we offer, and I want you to know that: Mi casa, es su casa. Thank you. And now I’d live to welcome my very dear friend, Katrina Adams.
KATRINA ADAMS: Thank you Billie, and on behalf of the United States Tennis Association, welcome to the 2017 US Open. The USTA is excited to be hosted the greatest tennis tournament in the world.
We’re now just one year away from completing the transformation of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Last year, we unveiled the brand new Grandstand Stadium and we put a roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium – the grandest tennis stage in the world.
Next year, we will unveil our new state-of-the-art Louis Armstrong Stadium, also with a roof for uninterrupted play. When the final piece is in place, we will have transformed, we will have transformed this facility from the ground up, cementing it’s place amoung the greatest sports venues in the world.
And for us, great things are happening at every level of tennis. With the introduction of Net Generation, our new brand for youth tennis, we are making it even easier for all kids and their parents to love this sport and find out how play it. Those of us who love this sport know that it can change lives and open doors for opportunity.
One of my personal heroes, Arthur Ashe…he knew that, and worked to make this sport more accessible for all kids, so that they could truly realize their dreams, and its many benefits. I know that tennis changed my life, that’s why I’m particularly thrilled that we are celebrating and honoring the 20th anniversary of this great stadium. And throughout this year’s tournament, you will see the court emblazoned with the logo, recognizing this momentous milestone.
Billie talked about memories, this place sure has had its share. Let’s take a look.
KATRINA ADAMS: It is now my pleasure to recognize, Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe.
JEANNE MOUTOUSSAMY-ASHE: Thank you Katrina. It’s a pleasure for me to be here tonight. The US Open and obviously, this remarkable stadium which holds a very special place in my heart.
I know how proud Arthur was to have won the very first US Open in 1968. And I also know how important it was for him to be able to use the platform that this sport and his celebrity afforded him, to further those causes that were near and dear to his heart: Education, equal opportunity, civil rights, human rights – those things meant everything to Arthur…and are still so important today.
So, as we celebrate 20-years of the stadium that bears his name, I hope we can also celebrate the things that he stood for, and ensure that those thing will always, also hold a place of importance to all of us. Thank you.
KATRINA ADAMS: Thank you Jeanne. And now it’s time to kick of the 2017 US Open in style…
ANDY TAYLOR: Ladies and Gentlemen, Shania Twain!
ANDY TAYLOR: Ladies and Gentlemen, please rise as our nation’s colors are presented by ceremonial units from the New York City Police Department, and the Fire Department of the City of New York.
ANDY TAYLOR: And ladies and gentlemen, to perform our National Anthem, please welcome internationally acclaimed musician and recording artist, Jon Batiste.
ANDY TAYLOR: Ladies and Gentlemen, Jon Batiste.