Even the city’s most public places conceal secrets paved over by the years, some more hidden than others. Grand Central Station is no exception despite the 750,000 or so people who make their way through its halls each day. You may already know of the terminal’s secret train track and whispering walls, but did you know that there are tennis courts in Grand Central? Once an exclusive club run by Donald Trump, the courts are now open to the public—and you can reserve a court at midnight.
The “secret” tennis courts are tucked away in a relatively obscure space called the Annex, which has at various times been used as a TV studio for CBS, an art gallery, and a 65-foot-long indoor ski slope. The athletic complex was first installed in the 1960s by Geza A. Gazdag, an immigrant from Hungary who founded the Vanderbilt Athletic Club on the third floor. Named after Cornelius Vanderbilt, who built the Grand Central Depot, the facility had two clay courts and the aforementioned indoor ski slope.
The club hit the skids in the ’80s, and in 1984 it was scooped up with some real estate deals by Donald Trump, who leased the space, renovated and turned the third-floor annex into an exclusive $155-an-hour ($130 on weekends) cash-only court for the well-heeled and well-connected. The pristine clay courts remained in semi-secrecy until Trump’s lease ended in 2009 and the space became a decidedly non-Trumpian full-service lounge and rest area for MTA workers. But the sound of secret tennis balls in the terminal wasn’t silenced; there was enough space in the cavernous Annex for all. The soaring three-story atrium got a new ceiling, and the re-invigorated and certifiably Trump-free Vanderbilt Tennis Club moved into the newly-created fourth floor.
The courts are now open to the public—if you can find them (some station employees don’t even know they exist). Start by finding the elevators in the lobby outside the now-shuttered Campbell Apartment bar—they’ll take you directly there. The elevators located halfway down the ramp leading to the Oyster Bar and tracks 100-117 will work, too.
The tennis facility boasts one junior court, two practice lanes, a fitness room and one regulation-sized main court—reportedly the only one in New York City that features on-court, slow-motion video analysis. Regular court time rates reportedly make the Trump era look like a bargain, but you don’t have to be a member; the club is open until 1 a.m. daily and hosts Night Owl Tennis for as little as $70 an hour, programs for kids and more. New guests can also play for an hour for free with an appointment.
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Images courtesy of Vanderbilt Tennis Club.
Neighborhoods : Midtown East