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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 January, 2004, 12:02 GMT
Wimbledon's roof: The lowdown
The All England Club has announced plans to build a roof over Wimbledon's Centre Court.

But what does this mean for the world's most famous tennis tournament and venue?

What will the roof look like?

A graphic showing the intended redevelopment of Centre Court
How Wimbledon should look once the redevelopment is complete

It will be a retractable 5,200 square metre folding fabric concertina.

The fabric is flexible - meaning it can be folded into a compressed area when not in use - and translucent, so that Centre Court should have an "open" feel even when the roof is closed.

The roof will be stored in two sections, one at the north end of the court and the other at the south.

A combination of hydraulic jacks and arms will move the two sections into place. They will meet and join in an overlapping seam above the middle of the court.

What effect will the roof have on the playing surface?

The translucent roof has been designed to allow natural light to reach the grass, with a ventilation system to remove condensation from the arena when the roof is closed.

The roof is 16 metres above the playing surface, so even the highest of lobs should not be impeded.

How quickly will the roof be able to close?

In about 10 minutes. This compares to the 90 seconds it takes to close the retractable roof over the main court in Halle, Germany.

So players will still have to leave the court if it rains?

Yes. Officials intend to use traditional court covers to protect the grass while the roof slips into place.

So even after the roof has been closed, play will not resume for up to half an hour.

So it is not the end to rain delays at Wimbledon?

No. And it is only Centre Court that is getting a roof, so play on all other courts will still be affected by bad weather.

With 650 matches to be played every championships, there is still the chance that Wimbledon could overrun into a third week.

So why is the All England Club bothering?

Tennis fans at Wimbledon shelter under umbrellas
No brollies needed - as long as you're on Centre Court

The roof over Centre Court will mean that television companies - who provide the bulk of Wimbledon's revenue - will now be able to broadcast almost unbroken coverage of play on every day throughout the championship fortnight, rather than having to rely on replays to fill long gaps in play.

The All England Club also has to be seen to be moving with the times. The Australian Open has a covered surface and organisers at Roland Garros are also considering installing a roof.

The plans announced on Tuesday are just the latest part of a long-running revamp of facilities which has already seen the building of the new number one court, a permanent broadcast centre, the Aorangi picnic terrace and improved facilities for players, media and officials.

What is the timescale for the project?

If Merton Council grant planning permission, work would get underway in early 2006.

But, because of the complex nature of the redevelopment, the new roof might not be in place until 2009.

What else are they doing to Wimbledon?

As part of the redevelopment, the arena's capacity is to be expanded from 13,800 seats to 15,000.

Existing seating is to be made more comfortable, access is to be improved and new commentary positions built.

The Wimbledon roof debate
19 Dec 03  |  Tennis

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