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It’s exciting. It’s loaded with top-notch talent. It’s free. And it’s climate-controlled. The USTA National Open Indoor Championship will take place at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center from December 26th through December 31st. While cold winds blow through the Arthur Ashe and Louis Armstrong stadiums outside, this competition will unfold at the venue’s indoor courts with daily action from 9 am until late at night. Some of the best players in the United States will vie for glory in five divisions: men’s singles and doubles; women’s singles and doubles; and mixed doubles. There’s nothing like sports drama, and spectators will be able to enjoy a new live streaming system and a cutting edge Daktronics LED scoreboard during some matches. 

Details: USTA National Men’s and Women’s Open Indoor Championships, USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, December 26th through December 31st, 9 am daily until matches finish, free. Plus, finals and awards brunch on December 31st at 10 am.

Photo: USTA

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Past attendees include former President Bill Clinton, current First Lady Michelle Obama, Justin Bieber, Rihanna, Alec Baldwin, and Rafael Nadal. For some it’s the unofficial start to the U.S. Open and a tribute to an athletic and civil rights legend, but for others, it’s an entertainment-heavy day full of pop culture sensations, exhibitions by professional tennis players, and a smorgasbord of activities and fun.

This Saturday, Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day will take place at the USTA Billie Jean National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Youngsters of all skill levels will participate in tennis and fitness activities, often with shorter courts, smaller rackets and less bouncy balls, while others will do drills to increase agility, balance, coordination, speed, and strength. There will also be a juggling workshop, hair beading and braiding, balloon artists, roving entertainers, and appearances by Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob, Dora, and Diego. Serena Williams and Andy Murray will be on hand this year, and the concert features chart-toppers such as The Bomb Digz, Kalin and Myles, Hollywood Ending and Karina Rae.

Details and photos after the jump.

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It’s basically the best tennis on Planet Earth, and it’s completely free with no long lines. The U.S. Open Qualifying Tournament will begin tomorrow with 128 men and 128 women competing for 32 entries (16 men and 16 women) in the main draws. For four days, up-and-coming stars from around the world will battle each other at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, and spectators can simply walk around and check out the matches. The circuit’s best players (i.e. Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams) get direct berths into the main draw, but they might be on site, practicing for opening day on August 25th.

Details: U.S. Open Qualifying Tournament, USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, August 19th through August 22nd, 10 am to around 6 pm, free.

Photos: USTA

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Queens got talent. United States Tennis Association employees set up mini courts in Corona Plaza and gave free instruction to youngsters this morning. Activities included lessons on basic skills, balance, and coordination, as well as ball-and-racket exchanges and tips on long-term athletic development. The participants used loaned mini-rackets and foam balls, and USTA employees imparted gifts and provided information on low-cost programs at the nearby Billie Jean King National Tennis Center (where the two-week US Open will take place starting on August 25th).

Then as a special treat, officials showed the permanent US Open singles trophies to the awed crowd. It was so much fun that the USTA will do it again in the same plaza next Friday, August 15th, at 10:30 am in conjunction with other activities such as healthy eating demonstrations, a merchant showcase, health screenings, and back-to-school discounts. Corona Plaza project manager William McCarthy hopes to offer these events weekly as part of his “Fridays Under the Seven” healthy living series. In the top photo, Assemblyman Francisco Moya holds the US Open men’s singles trophy, the same one that Rafael Nadal hoisted last year, in the second row, while City Council Member Julissa Ferreras shows the women’s singles trophy, which Serena Williams won last year. Queens Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jack Friedman is in back right in a suit, while Community Board 4 District Manager Christian Cassagnol is in suspenders next to him.  Check out more photos after the jump…

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When the 2013 U.S. Open tennis tournament begins on August 26th, some of the closest matches, greatest serves and most thrilling triumphs will have already happened. On August 20th, the four-day qualifying tournament will begin with 128 men and 128 women competing for the final 32 entries (16 men and 16 women) in the main draws. This is world-class tennis with up-and-coming stars and other highly talented players who have dedicated their lives to making the final jump to the elite level. It’s also free, and anybody can walk around the campus, watching the matches. Plus, many of the top players who don’t have to qualify will be there, practicing on open courts.

Details: 2013 U.S. Open Tennis Qualifiers, USTA field courts, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, August 20-23, gates open at 10 am.

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Last night there was twice the fun at Flushing Town Hall. Upstairs in the theater area, our friends at the Queens Economic Development Corporation hosted a networking event, while art-lovers flocked to the first floor gallery to attend the opening of Erasing Borders, an exhibition of contemporary Indian painting, sculpture, video art, installation art and photography.

As part of the networking event, which Delta, the Mets, the USTA and Magna Restaurant co-hosted, QEDC announced the nine finalists (some in above photo) of the Seventh Annual Queens StartUP! Business Plan Competition, a five-month challenge-and-instruction course sponsored by Citi.

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The way the news outlets are talking, the USTA has their desired planned expansion in the bag – they still must submit their plans to the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, go through a public vetting process and also get approval by the City Council, which will probably conclude Fall 2013 if all goes well (so says USTA Managing Director Daniel Zausner). They are hoping to use .68 acre of land in Flushing Meadows Corona Park for this expansion, and the latest tidbit of news regarding this is that they will not have to replace this land elsewhere in the city.

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S Prime brings delicious steaks and more to Astoria

We spent an evening dining at S Prime, a new steakhouse in Astoria near the Kaufman Astoria Studios in the southern part of town. It used to be the location of Island Lounge, and you’d never recognize it as the same place – the designers did a great job completely changing it inside. We enjoyed our meal and wanted to share it with you through words and pictures. Enjoy!

The stars come out to the Rockaways to help

The NYDN reported that newlyweds Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel are back from their secret Tanzanian honeymoon and chose to head to Far Rockaway to help with Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. They handed out backpacks full of supplies to victims of the storm. One volunteer captioned her Instagram photo of the actors, “Shout out to Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel for serving alongside of us in Rockaway and giving the kids something to talk about besides Sandy.”

The USTA may expand into Flushing Meadows Corona Park over the next decade

We’ve learned more of the details about the USTA’s desired expansion into Flushing Meadows Corona Park, which in the end should only take up a little over a half an acre. The changes include the following:

  • Relocation of the current Grandstand stadium
  • Renovation of Louis Armstrong stadium
  • Building of additional courts and parking facilities

The USTA will need to go through a bureaucratic process, but that is par for the course. They are confident that they will pass all requirements asked of them.

“Exceptionally delicious” Niçoise salad at La Boulangerie in Forest Hills

Our friends at the Edge of the City blog reported on their very positive experience with the Niçoise salad at La Boulangerie, an excellent bakery just off of Austin Street. The author of the post wrote that the salad was, “one of the more memorable salad-eating experiences I have ever had.” We’ll be trying it soon.

New Business Recovery Center from the US SBA opens in LIC

A new Business Recovery Center, run by the US Small Business Administration, has opened in LIC. There, business owners can talk to SBA customer service representatives and ask questions about the disaster loan program, as well as get help in completing applications to apply for a disaster business loan. If your business has sustained physical damages or loss of revenue from Hurricane Sandy, this center is for you.

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Image source: Queens Chronicle – “A rendering of the United States Tennis Association’s planned expansion at Flushing Meadows Corona Park includes a new Grandstand, bottom left, a renovated Louis Armstrong Stadium, top right, and additional courts.”

We’ve heard a lot about the Major League Soccer stadium that is most likely coming to Flushing Meadows Corona Park, but another major sports venue also has expansion plans – the US Tennis Association. The Queens Chronicle reports that the expansion requires .68 acres of parkland along the Tennis Center’s eastern edge. They are calling it an upgrade and a “Strategic Vision.”

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Image source: Major League Soccer

So Major League Soccer wants to move into New York City. They’ve had their eye on NYC proper (the NY Red Bulls play in New Jersey) since 2011, when they put a team together to look into over 20 potential locations for a stadium within the city limits. Flushing Meadows Corona Park eventually became their location of choice, appealing because the location is near public transportation (subway, LIRR) and because Queens is “home of soccer in New York City right now,” according to MLS President Mark Abbott. This stadium would be the home to the 20th team in the League and would start playing 2016.