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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 January, 2004, 10:48 GMT
Wimbledon to build roof
An artist's impression of the new sliding roof
The All England Club has confirmed it intends to build a retractable roof over Centre Court.

The plan is part of a multi-million pound redevelopment which will also see the capacity of Wimbledon's main show court increased to 15,000.

Ofificials hope to get planning permission in time to have the roof in place for the 2009 Championships.

AEC Chairman Tim Phillips said: "Centre Court is the jewel in our crown and we want to make it even more precious."

He added: "Our continuing aim is for Wimbledon to be acknowledged as the world's premier tennis event.

"Our innovative plans seek to retain the history and tradition of Centre Court, but with outstanding new facilities for the players, spectators and television audiences of the 21st Century."

Rain has completely washed out play on five days since 1991.

And the sight of players retreating to the locker rooms while the famous green covers are hauled into place is one of the enduring images of the tournament.

But the idea of a roof had always been rejected because of the particular problems posed at Wimbledon by the possibility of humidity affecting the grass surface.

Only after getting assurances it would not threaten the condition of the court, did organisers of the 126-year-old tournament decided to follow the lead of the Australian Open.

The Melbourne Park event, which gets underway on 19 January, is the only Grand Slam which already uses a retractable roof.

Wimbledon officials also inspected the facilities at another grasscourt venue, Halle in Germany, where the PVC fabric covering takes just 90 seconds to deploy.

The new Centre Court roof will open in less than 10 minutes and will be see-through to allow natural light to reach the grass.

British number one Tim Henman has already given his cautious backing after initially opposing the idea.

Subject to planning permission, the provisional time scale is for the work to start in 2006, once the museum and offices have relocated to the new building at Gate Three in late 2005/early 2006.

Completion of the Centre Court is scheduled for 2009.

The plans will be on general display at Merton Council's offices in South West London until 27 February 2004.


WATCH AND LISTEN
All England Club chairman Tim Phillips
"We feel the unique atmosphere of Centre Court will be retained"



SEE ALSO
Wimbledon's roof: The lowdown
06 Jan 04  |  Tennis
Wimbledon's roof plans in pictures
06 Jan 04  |  Photo Galleries


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