NEW YORK -- The roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium, three years in the making, might be the talk -- and ultimately the savior and star -- of this years event, but the toupee hasnt radically altered the stadiums structure nearly as much as a massive renovation has transformed roughly half of the US Opens 45 acres.This is impressive, said one fan waiting with a companion to enter the new stand-alone Grandstand Stadium built into the southwest end of the grounds. I thought they blew it when they decided to get rid of the old one, but this is something. Its pretty neat.The Grandstand is a sunken bowl surrounded by 8,125 seats. It didnt take savvy fans long on a humid day, when the mercury hit the mid-90s, to find the significant band of seats on the extreme west side that offer a US Open commodity in shade thats as rare as a male American singles contender these days.Anchoring the southwest corner of the grounds, the Grandstand has food concessions at ground level, in the shadow of its bowl. Walkways flow from the Grandstand to the south plaza, which in years past has often been overcrowded. But all the courts on the south side have been moved back about 30 feet, allowing for a significant expansion of the nearby plaza. That includes the space around the fountains and the statue of Arthur Ashe.The big dig also enabled the USTA to create a wide boulevard that now fronts the south-side courts. Those courts were all rebuilt with permanent seating and slick, aluminum-skinned entries that create a great sense of intimacy for those watching -- and playing -- inside.This enhancement underscores a noteworthy feature of the tournament. The US Open has always tried to play up its egalitarian appeal. That effort doesnt always pass the smell test. How could it? But the improvements to the field courts -- and it began with the creation of the practice courts complex (Nos. 4-6) a year ago -- have in effect given every court that much more prestige.Now, every court feels a little bit like a center court. Thats a significant achievement.There has been a cost as well. You no longer get the feeling that on certain courts, the match youre watching is taking place in a public park.As one veteran journalist put it, It feels like theres an awful lot of concrete and steel out there.That old parks-and-rec feeling may be gone, but the ghosts and traditions of the US Opens past are easily conjured and find ways to live on. There was much weeping and gnashing of teeth when the USTA announced that the beloved old Grandstand appended to the side of Louis Armstrong Stadium would be removed to be replaced by the new one that is kitty-corner on the grounds.The new Grandstand certainly is different, but its a fair guess that some of those shade-hoggers were the same characters who in years past staked out the west stand of the old Grandstand for the same reason. By the way, the old Grandstand is still in use, under the forlorn name old Grandstand. It will be torn down along with the rest of Armstrong after this tournament, and a bigger Armstrong Stadium will be built.Courts 11 and 12 more or less stand alone in the center of the grounds, between the original food court near Armstrong and the south plaza fountains. The single, tall permanent stand on the west side of No. 11 now has a mirror-image stand on the east side of 12, enveloping the courts in a microenvironment. But when the wind is right, rich and pungent smoke from the nearby hamburger stand still wafts over Court 11 -- just as it did when Louis Armstrong was the only stadium on the site, and the area was occupied by Court No. 1.Back then, the burgers were cooked on open charcoal fires near the court. The players sometimes coughed and literally choked on the greasy smoke, dispensing it from their vision with a wave of a hand as they prepared to receive serve.Over the years, the old Grandstand became famous for producing great upsets and close, electrifying five-set battles. The first match on the new Grandstand featured a 20-year-old American, No. 146 Taylor Townsend, clashing with former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki. Townsend, calling upon all kinds of lefty juju, won the first set and took Wozniacki to 4-4 in the third before capitulating.The new Grandstand didnt quite deliver the upset that Grandstand faithful probably hoped for. Give it time. After all, the old one isnt even gone yet. 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A few hours before her team played its most important game of the 2012 season, University of Michigan softball coach Carol Hutchins stepped into the stifling sauna that Tuscaloosa, Alabama, can feel like by Memorial Day and went for a jog. Her route took her past the University of Alabamas softball stadium, one of college softballs crown jewels but also the home of a program that played its first-ever game in a city park about a month before Hutchins won her 500th game.In town to broadcast the NCAA tournament super regional between Michigan and Alabama, ESPNs Jessica Mendoza, then also an active player and one of the best hitters in the sport, was taking batting practice in an otherwise nearly empty stadium.Soon enough, a solitary figure appeared in the outfield. Hutchins not only had found her way inside the gates but apparently borrowed a glove from someone. As the Alabama sun beat down, she settled under a couple of stray fly balls that didnt disappear over the fence.I count myself fortunate to have seen a few grand softball moments in person over the years, but that small scene in Tuscaloosa remains perhaps my favorite. It is at least partly so, I think, because it is difficult to imagine it starring anyone other than Hutchins. It wouldnt work with any other coach. It wouldnt work with Geno Auriemma wandering in to rebound for Candace Parker. It made sense with Hutchins.She is softball. She is its story. You can teach its past, present and future by tracing her path.So, of course, she stopped and shagged flies. She and the sport have that kind of relationship.When Michigan beat Indiana on April 2, 2016, Hutchins passed former Fresno State coach Margie Wright for the most wins in NCAA history. As opening day approaches for Team 40 (one of the traditions she initiated years ago is that the Wolverines refer to each team in chronological order), her total stands at 1,484 wins. All but a handful came in 32 seasons at Michigan.Nor is she slowing at age 59. Michigan spent the entire 2016 season ranked in the top five, including a stint at No. 1. It reached the Womens College World Series for the second consecutive season and the 12th time under Hutchins. Michigan won 52 games, ranked second in the nation in scoring and earned its ninth consecutive Big Ten title.She played shortstop at Michigan State in the 1970s when the NCAA still wanted nothing to do with womens sports. In those days of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, the Red Cedar River ran behind first base at the ssoftball field in East Lansing -- and it was only a field, not a stadium.dddddddddddd The river was often the final resting place for errant Hutchins throws. Three decades later, on national television and in front of thousands, Michigan became the first from east of the Mississippi River to win an NCAA championship.It is easy to make such juxtapositions. She was hired at Michigan as a part-time softball coach and part-time administrative assistant. She now has an office in the softball building that sits next to the softball stadium. There were barely 100 Division I programs when she took over in Ann Arbor three years into the NCAA era. There are now just shy of 300. Once an outpost, Michigan helped the game grow.Yet it is on the smallest scale that she matters most. Hutchins can be acerbic. She can glower with the best of them. Even now, I ask a question and wait to see if it passes muster. And the media have it easy compared to the player called in front of her for some transgression. It isnt a facade. She suffers fools not a smidgen. But so little of it has to do with the wins and losses. So much of it has to do with respect. Respect for the game. Respect for teammates. Respect for people.Enter the Michigan dugout and you find not just players, but people like Emily Hepker, who has waged a long-running fight with cancer. Generally fearless, even Hepker was intimidated to introduce herself to Hutchins on first meeting. Yet without any pity, Hutchins made her part of the team. Not in some ceremonial or honorary way, but in the meaningful sense of being part of the collection of people.It is the most important juxtapositions that she is beloved by those who play for her and a great many of those she beats. Players dont walk on eggshells around her; they make fake pizzas.When Hutchins was just starting out in coaching, her late mother used to ask when she was going to get a real job. On that morning in Alabama, the answer seemed obvious. Never.And generations of women have gone about their lives the better because of it.More on Carol Hutchins? Milestone moment for Hutchins Story ?? 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