Margaret Court Arena gets retractable roof
The Australian Open is now "weatherproof", after the installation of a third retractable roof at Melbourne Park, Tennis Australia said. The retractable roof on the Margaret Court Arena means matches can continue even in extreme weather conditions, as were experienced in 2014 when a heatwave forced many matches to be rescheduled. The 2015 Australian Open starts in Melbourne on January 19.
Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley said if weather prevented play for longer periods, the tournament could still be completed. "There's no question that now having a third stadium with a retractable roof, that if we had to in the unlikely event, we'd be able to complete the tournament," Mr Tiley said. "Before it was not a possibility."
Mr Tiley said the roof could open & close in just five minutes, making it the fastest in the world. "To be able to weatherproof this court so quickly enables us to have continuous play," Mr Tiley said. "Often you see in other stadiums, you've got to stop play before you can close the roof. That's not the case here."
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said the redevelopment would take the 6,000-seat open air stadium, to a 7,300 state-of-the-art facility. "It means that this Melbourne Park precinct is the only grand slam venue in the world with three courts like this," Mr Andrews said. "The entire tournament, not that anyone would want this to be the case, but the entire tournament can be played between center court, Hisense and of course, the Margaret Court Arena."
Mr Andrews said around 650,000–700,000 people were expected to attend the Australian Open this year. "If we're going to continue to grow the event, if we're going to continue to reap the dividends that come from having one of the world's four grand slams here solidly in Melbourne for the future, then we need to invest in the very best facilities." Mr Tiley said the third roof would mean Hisense Arena would be available to 10,000 ground pass holders for the 2015 tournament. He said the long-range weather forecast has predicted just one day over 40°Celsius degrees this year.