Images of what the Wimbledon tennis site could look like within the next few years have been released ahead of celebrating its 100th birthday.
The 2022 championships officially begin on Monday and it’s a special year as the iconic Centre Court will be marking its centenary of opening in Church Road, south London.
And the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), which hosts the oldest tennis tournament in the world, has big hopes to build 38 new grass courts at the site and transform it by 2030.
This would almost treble the size of the site and a new 8,000-seat stadium, called the Parkland Show Court, would also be built increasing the competition’s daily spectator capacity from 42,000 to 50,000.
It would allow the club to move its Wimbledon qualifying event, which has just taken place, from nearby Roehampton back to the site. There are further plans to open up 9.4 hectares of parkland to the public, which was previously a golf course.
Justin Smith, head of estate development at AELTC, told Metro.co.uk: ‘Our overall plans focus very much on bringing the qualifying event to the main venue – at the moment it is in Roehampton, and has been for a number of years.
‘That is one of the main premises for us bringing the qualifying to the land in the park opposite that we’ve owned since the early 1990s.
‘We want to establish the championships for the future with the qualifying event being a really intrinsic part of the fortnight, as it leads in and builds the players up to it, and that’s quite important on the world stage.
‘The other opportunity through the project is we can push our feelers out into the community a bit more, so although we’re setting that picture for our event and the international stage – which is good for London and Britain – we’re also able to put in some space for our local residents in Wandsworth and Merton who will be allowed access to the land they’ve never had access to before, or at least a portion of it.’
Alongside the new courts and extra parkland space, a new boardwalk is planned around the lake in Wimbledon Park, and seven of the grass courts will be available for community use after the competition until the end of the season.
The club hopes some of the community access will open up by 2026, with the grass courts completed by 2027 and in use for the qualifiers and championships by 2029 after they have matured. The Parkland Show Court should be complete by 2030.
But despite bosses pushing the benefits to the area, the plans have come up against protests from the community, with some 1,200 people submitting objections.
Many fear seeing a building site on their doorsteps for years to come, or fear the impact on the environment and potential loss of culture.
But the AELTC was keen to stress to Metro.co.uk it is taking care to ‘extend our heritage not only through our history of tennis but our history of the place’ itself.
Andy Wayro, senior landscape design manager, said: ‘Obviously tennis is our core driver, however there have been some great opportunities in terms of best practice and stewardship of this landscape creating habitats within publicly accessible parkland but also within the wider site.
‘That extends to working with natural systems, we’re re-sculpting some brooks which have been underground for a number of years, we’re reinstating pieces of the lake that have been lost, and just really putting back as much of that historical landscape for future generations to enjoy.’
Justin acknowledged some people aren’t happy with the plans, but the club has ‘neatened and tidied the plans’ after feedback, and are working to reassure people they are ‘working on a project of the highest quality, not just working across the land’.
He said they’ve been given ‘good ideas to incorporate into the scheme’ by the public and they’ve been consulting experts all the way through a very long process, which has ‘evolved the design’.
Andy added there have been public exhibitions, consultations, walking tours and ‘meet the experts’ events to explain the impact of the project on the local area.
‘At the moment it’s an existing golf course, which is quite intensively managed,’ he explained.
‘One of the things we’ve been looking at from the beginning is getting the right data in place, so we’ve done over 100 hours’ worth of ecological surveys just to know exactly what is present on site, what the site is suitable for in the future.
‘Families who visited have really got to grips with understanding the wider benefits – and how the scheme delivers not just tennis courts but also community opportunities and an improvement to the environment, whether that’s managing hydrology and water flow across the site, or whether that’s just improving habitats.’
He said the project is committed to a 10% biodiversity net gain as ‘best practice’, before wildlife variety becomes compulsory in planning applications from November next year onwards.
And experts have surveyed all the trees on the site, identifying 41 ‘veterans’ to be protected and enter a management plan.
The AELTC plans to plant 1,500 more trees on the site, with some genetically linked to the veterans via acorns collected two years ago.
Updated planning documents were submitted to Merton and Wandsworth councils in May – after an initial one last year – and the application is set to be heard by planning committees over the summer.
To mark 100 years of Centre Court, Wimbledon is releasing a digital collection of limited edition masterpieces and launching a 2022 collection, among other celebrations during the championships over the coming days and weeks.
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