Melbourne Park set for major redevelopment

Austadiums   |  Monday 26th January 2009

Melbourne's home of tennis is set for a redevelopment worth hundreds of millions of dollars, including a stadium revamp.

Announcing the project today at the Australian Open, Premier John Brumby said the project would boost Melbourne Park's seating capacity, shaded and open areas, and better public transport access.

Mr Brumby said the plan would include a partly covered new town square in the centre of the venue.

A display of the new project shows the square just to the east of Rod Laver Arena.

Among proposals include a roof for Margaret Court Arena, a new Tennis Australia headquarters, better players facilities, more practice courts, and better media facilities.

While the government has so far declined to detail the cost of the project, but the newly built Queensland Tennis Centre cost $82 million.

Mr Brumby said the government would spend $5 million developing the plan.

The new project is expected to require a multi-million investment, worth $300 million to more than $500 million.

Tennis Australia president Geoff Pollard said he was "delighted with the strong support shown to the Australian Open, and tennis in Australia from the Victorian Government".

The announcement comes amid expectations the tournament is expected to remain in Melbourne long after the current contract to stage the event here expires in 2016.

Mr Brumby said today the vision aimed to "ensure Melbourne Park remains a world-class sporting precinct and the home of the Australian Open tennis tournament until 2036".

It is three years since the Herald Sun revealed the Australian Open was at the crossroads because of Melbourne Park's structural shortcomings.

Sydney has expressed its interest in winning the Open from Melbourne.

But Premier John Brumby said last year a $2 million business study was aimed at keeping the Open where it is.

"If we did nothing, you'd say the event post-2016 would be a question mark. But we are not going to do nothing," he said.

Other improvements are thought to include the construction of new office blocks, better player facilities and a museum.

TA's lobbying of the Brumby administration has coincided with a bid by Sydney's Major Events group for the Open.

Industry insiders last night suggested the State Government was determined the grand slam tournament would remain in Victoria.

Melbourne Park was built in 1988, when it was seen as the most futuristic tennis venue in the world.

Despite its expansion with the construction of the now named Hisense Arena, the venue was originally built with a spectator capacity per tournament of 300,000.

Last year's event attracted more than 605,000. And the tournament is on track to better that figure this year.

Wimbledon, the French Open's Roland Garros and the US Open's Flushing Meadows have all undergone significant improvements during the past five years.

But Melbourne Park's use as a multi-purpose venue means the site has far more traffic than its grand slam cousins.

The signs of wear and tear around the stadium are obvious despite the partial revamping of facilities.

Matthew Schulz, Leo Schlink

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