HERE is the Centre Court of the future.
Just hours after the men’s champion receives the trophy on Sunday, work will begin to serve up a spectacular retractable roof.
Rain delays – and Cliff Richard singalongs – will be a thing of the past by the 2009 Championships, at least on the court Wimbledon calls its “jewel in the crown”.
After the last spectator has left the grounds, contractors will move in on Monday morning to begin preparatory work. When the entire project is finished it will enable play to continue in all weathers.
The builders will work until next May on the initial stage – demolition and re-building of the existing Centre Court east side. That’s the section that runs along the Tea Lawn bar and food outlets, along with the bandstand.
It’s taken many years of argument to get to this point. But the development of a sophisticated environmental control system has finally alleviated concerns about putting a roof over the iconic grass court.
Centre Court’s capacity will rise to 15,000 from the current 13,800, with existing seating replaced with wider and more comfortable seats.
More work will take place between July 2007 and May 2008, including the installation of the fixed element of the new roof, which will be in place for the 2008 Championships.
The final stage begins in July 2008 with completion of the new retractable and translucent roof in time for the 2009 Champonships. It is designed to close or open in under 10 minutes in the event of rain – or extremely hot weather – and will allow natural light to reach the grass.
Play will be suspended while the roof closes/opens, before being resumed once both the court surface and bowl have attained the optimum conditions for players and spectators. The entire operation will take between 10 and 30 minutes, depending on conditions at the time.
And with tennis officials starting yet another drive to find a home grown champion of the future, perhaps one day a British player will be lifting one of those SW19 trophies on Centre Court. Now that really would raise the roof.