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2003 Dec 19 - Wimbledon retractable roof plans

On the 6th January 2004 the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) will reveal plans to improve the legendary Wimbledon Centre Court.

The public have been calling for covered show courts for many years due to the ongoing problems caused by rain delays. But the AELTC even last year continued to dismiss the possibility. However, it seems more likely than not that improvements will include a retractable roof and also floodlights so play can continue later into the evening.

Tim Phillips (AELTC Chairman) admitted the retractable roof idea has been discussed in depth and significant tests have already been carried out. He said:

"We know that it is physically possible to build a roof and we owe it to tennis fans to investigate all the possibilities for play to take place even if it is raining.

"The real issue is, if you put one up, what does that micro-climate create in the way of dew on the playing surface? We have got top athletes who are trying to twist and turn on the grass.

"We are also concerned about the way the grass grows. We are doing tests on this, we have commissioned quite a lot of testing in the States.

"Until such time as we get total satisfaction that the micro-climate enclosed, that is being created, is going to be suitable for championship play, we would not consider it."

One of Europe's finest designers HOK Architects have been assigned the Wimbledon Centre Court project. They were the guys behind the 110,000 capacity Telstra Stadium in Sydney, Australia which opened in 1999 to host the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. It was the largest and most technologically advanced Olympic Stadium ever built. So it must be safe to assume that HOK will be doing more than fitting floodlights to the existing mish-mash roof!

The retractable roof is not new to tennis. Melbourne Park, home of the Australian Open, already boasts retractable roofs for both it's Rod Laver Arena and Vodafone Arena.


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