Tennis hall uses $3M museum makeover to detail game's impact

AP News
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Posted: May 17, 2015 10:55 AM
Tennis hall uses $3M museum makeover to detail game's impact

NEWPORT, R.I. (AP) — The museum at the International Tennis Hall of Fame is using a $3 million makeover to highlight the game's influence on pop culture and social issues, with snazzy new displays and iconic memorabilia highlighting moments that transcended the sport.

Serena Williams' form-fitting Lycra "catsuit," worn when she dominated the 2002 US Open, shows the star's influence on fashion. A display dedicated to the 1973 "Battle of the Sexes" match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs recounts her public argument that women should be paid just as much as men. And a Roger Federer hologram showcases his signature shots and shares reasons why the 17-time Grand Slam winner loves the sport.

"These are stories that go above and beyond tennis. They have a political and social aspect. I think there are so many wonderful stories and breakthroughs," said Chris Evert, a former world No. 1 who won the French Open a record seven times.

The 60-year-old museum reopens this week after a three-year renovation, part of a $15 million capital project to update the former home of the U.S. Open.

Museum officials hope the additions will attract more tourists — it currently gets about 20,000 to 25,000 visitors annually — and keep them there longer.

"The goal is to show how tennis, for the last 100 plus years, has been part of who we are," said Doug Stark, the museum's director.

The revamped museum celebrates the history of the game through the stories of the 243 Hall of Famers, who come from 21 countries around the world. The international appeal of the museum — and, indeed, the game — is why Swiss champion Roger Federer was chosen for the museum's new hologram, museum officials said.

Evert said the museum tells some of her favorite stories, including her rivalry and friendship with Martina Navratilova.

"It's just a great history, and it really opens my eyes," Evert said.

Stan Smith, president of the Hall of Fame and a former world No. 1, said the museum wants to appeal to even casual fans.

"The history of the game is quite extensive, and the characters that played the game have made a big impact, not only on the game, but in some cases, in society," Smith said.

About 2,000 items will be on display when the museum re-opens Wednesday, nearly double what the museum could display before the renovations. The museum has not expanded in size, but new displays allow the museum to showcase some of its smallest and oldest pieces, like 16th century books that mention tennis for the first time in history. Other new technology in the museum will include an interactive tennis trivia game and a three-dimensional rotating globe that visitors can use to learn about tournaments and players around the world.

The property, known as the Newport Casino, was the nation's first country club. It was built in 1880 and became the host of the US Nationals — now the US Open — a year after opening. In 1914, the tournament moved to New York City, but the trophies remain in Newport.