U.S. Open venue to host 350-bed temporary hospital amid coronavirus pandemic

FILE PHOTO: Aug 28, 2018; New York, NY, USA; Roger Federer of Switzerland hits to Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan in a first round match on day two of the 2018 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A portion of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center is set to transform into a 350-bed temporary hospital on Tuesday, the USTA said, as the coronavirus outbreak strains resources in New York City, which as been dramatically affected by the pandemic.

The site of the U.S. Open and the crown jewel of American tennis, the venue has been thrust into the fray amid a medical crisis that has gripped the world and brought professional sports to a sudden and indefinite halt.

Chris Widmaier, spokesman for the U.S. Tennis Association, which owns the tennis center, told Reuters that the conversion of an indoor tennis facility on the venue would begin Tuesday.

“We’re here to help – no two ways about it,” Widmaier said. “New York is our home, we’re all in this together.”

New York City Emergency Management (NYCEM) informed the USTA of its plans on Monday, after previously telling the organization that the tennis center was a potential venue for auxiliary medical care.

“The site is likely to be non-Covid patients, and we will evaluate based on need,” NYCEM spokesman Omar Bourne said.

He added that the city is “actively working to identify spaces that can be used to expand hospital capacity throughout the five boroughs,” but did not elaborate.

News of the Flushing Meadows facility comes a day after New York began construction on a 68-bed field hospital in Central Park, as the city strains to accommodate the volume of patients at its medical centers.

Reporting By Amy Tennery. Editing by Gerry Doyle