Tennis Hall of Fame to get face lift in time for golden era inductees like Federer, Serena Williams

NEWPORT, R.I. (AP) — The International Tennis Hall of Fame is getting all dolled up for some extra special visitors.

The Newport shrine on Tuesday unveiled plans for a $3 million renovation that will double the museum’s exhibit space and redesign the plaque gallery in time for the enshrinement of all-time greats such as Roger Federer and Serena Williams.

“When you think about this golden era of who’s going to be inducted coming up in the next five to 10 years, (it’s) perfect timing,” Hall CEO Dan Faber said in a news conference to announce the plans.

Most visible among the upgrades will be a new display for the inductees, replacing plaques on the wall with a lineup of markers, each including a golden tennis racket that mirrors the Hall’s logo. A replica of the racket will be given to the inductee as part of the enshrinement ceremony.

“It truly represents the prestige that that honor is for those inductees, for both players and contributors,” said Reese Stevens, who helped design the new displays. “The golden-cast rackets are going to be the new manifestation of what it means to be a Hall of Famer.”

The gallery of inductees will move from the beginning of the exhibits to the end of the meandering tour through the 19th Century building that surrounds the only grass courts in the United States regularly available to the public. A new retail store will be added at the end of the exhibits.

Previously, because of the building’s layout, visitors would start at the plaque gallery and walk through the exhibits, then need to double back to get out.

“We want to be very respectful of the fact that this is a historic building, and we know that,” said Mindy Ward, who also worked on the plans for the Nashville, Tennessee-based design firm Advent. “Part of our challenge — and one that we embraced with gusto — was making sure that what we were developing, while fresh and new and modern, blended seamlessly with some of the historic displays in the historic art and architecture that we didn’t want to just get rid of.”

It is the first major upgrade to the Hall since 2015; the plaque gallery had not been updated since 2008. About 30,000 visitors tour the Hall in person each year — a number it hopes to double — with plans to make the exhibits more accessible online to those who can’t make the trip to this well-heeled home of mansions and marinas on Narragansett Bay.

The Hall will close during the renovation, which is scheduled to begin in November and end by next May.

Players are eligible for Hall of Fame induction five years after they were last a “significant factor” on the ATP or WTA tours. Federer retired in 2021 and Williams a year later, meaning they will be eligible for induction in 2026 and ’27.

“The golden era of tennis is perhaps retiring, but it’s upon us,” Hall vice president Julianna Barbieri said. “Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Venus Williams are going to become Hall of Famers, and it was time for us to take what was in the current gallery and modernize that, modernize that to the present day, modernize that for the evolution of the sport and make that fit more within who and what the game has evolved to from 2008.”

President Patrick McEnroe also said that the organization is planning new events after the Hall of Fame Open lost its spot on the ATP calendar after this season. The tournament has been played for almost 50 years in July in conjunction with the induction ceremonies, but the date the week after Wimbledon led many top players to skip the tournament and rest.

The specifics will be announced next month.

“You know the phrase, ‘Today is the first day of the rest of your life?'” McEnroe said. “Next year is the first year of the rest of our life. And, it’s going to be awesome.”

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AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis

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