(Reuters) - United States Tennis Association (USTA) Chief Executive Gordon Smith, who oversaw the transformation of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, will retire at the end of the year, the organization said on Friday.
Smith, who played competitively as a junior and captained a University of Georgia team that swept four straight Southeastern Conference titles from 1971 through 1975, assumed his position in 2007 and is the longest-tenured USTA chief executive.
“I never dreamed I would have a 12-year second career in the game that I love so much,” Smith said in a statement. “It has been a great run and I look forward to the next phase of my life.”
Smith stewarded the five-year $600 million transformation of New York’s Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, home of the U.S. Open, a project which included a retractable roof superstructure over Arthur Ashe Stadium.
According to the USTA, gross revenue from the U.S. Open nearly doubled during Smith’s tenure while attendance at the year’s last Grand Slam is at an all-time high.
The USTA also said it will begin a search for a new chief executive by first identifying a search firm by March and that Smith has been asked to assist in the process of selecting his successor.
“We couldn’t have asked for a finer leader and a more passionate advocate for the sport of tennis than Gordon Smith,” said USTA Chairman of the Board and President Patrick Galbraith.
“He has brought our sport to new levels, he has represented American tennis with class and dignity around the world, and his act will be hard to follow.”
Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky