Wimbledon's retractable roof system to debut
Since the very beginning of time at Wimbledon Stadium, 1922 to be exact, play has been centred around not only the centre court, but the good old English weather. Unreliable at the best of times, it has scuppered many a tennis match, flooding the lawn with impromptu downpours and suspending matches for hours at a time. But these delays which led to many a moment of camaraderie and the odd sing-a-long session are now to be a thing of the past as the All England Club has confirmed that its new Centre Court retractable roof will be ready in time for the Centre Court Celebration matches on Sunday 17 May.
Andre Agassi, Stefanie Graf, Tim Henman and Kim Clijsters will be the first players to play under the new structure, designed by Populous (formerly HOK Sport Venue Event) with structural engineering services by Capita Symonds, with final testing of the roof and air-management system currently being carried out.
Crucial to the success of the new structure is the air-management system which will control and stabilise the internal environment within the bowl – essentially controlling humidity and preventing either condensation on the inside of the roof or sweating of the grass – either of which would make the court slippery and unsuitable for play. Vitally it will ensure the availability of oxygen within the stadium.
Ian Ritchie, Chief Executive of the All England Club, said: “We set out to make Wimbledon the world’s premier tennis event; the tournament the players most want to win, the tournament spectators most want to come to and the tournament everyone wants to watch. The new Centre Court roof project has been a sophisticated engineering feat. Much of the testing is complete and we are now making final adjustments ahead of the Centre Court Celebration event on 17 May. That event is an important part of the testing procedure and will enable us to see how both the roof and air-management system actually perform under live conditions with a capacity crowd.”
The new roof is constructed of tensile, durable Tenara fabric, concertinaed across the span of the ceiling. Held up by ten 77 metre roof trusses, each weighing 70 tonnes, the fabric displays a 40% translucency which allows light to penetrate and crucially reach the grass below. It takes a maximum of ten minutes to close the structure which used approximately 5,200 sq m of fabric to create. 100% of materials used for the roof are recyclable.
While the installation is likely to put an end to the days of the Cliff Richard karaoke session, it should make for a much more comfortable day all round.