As the sport of tennis continues to transition into a bigger and better sport, attracting millions of new fans every year, tournaments and facilities around the globe have begun to feel the pressure and restraints of the increased traffic of fans.
Perhaps the most aggressive of the four major tournaments to adapt have been the Australian Open, as they currently have three main stadium courts, Rod Laver Arena, Hisense Arena and Margaret Court Arena, with retractable roofs. Wimbledon added a roof to their prestigious Centre Court in 2009.
After many years of battling to catch up, the French Open and U.S. Open have been fighting to add a roof as well. The Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, home of the U.S. Open, is in the final stages of constructing a roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing, NY and will be ready for this year’s tournament.
For years, top brass at Roland Garros have been pushing for changes as well, but were met with resistance from the city and lawmakers. However, after many years of back-and-forth, their proposals are now going forward, proposals that include adding a roof over Court Philippe-Chatrier, creating a new tournament organization building, adding newer and revamped courts, as well as stepping-up the player facilities.
As this year’s 2016 French Open gets set to commence in just a few short weeks, tournament leaders are prepping to not only run this year’s efforts without a hitch, but are also prepping for the major renovations to come, slated to begin in increments next year. A video of the renovations can be found at the end of this article!
Smaller renovations will have minor impact on the players this year
The first renovations at Roland Garros began last October. This will create some consequences for the players this year. Despite any inconveniences, the tournament is insisting that any smaller costs this year will be offset by the positive changes to come. Due to the renovations, the tournament will have two less courts this year as compared to last (17 this year versus 19 last year).
In addition, round one of the qualifying tournament will be played on Monday and Tuesday. In addition to the court changes, there will be a new location for the gym and fitness centers, warm-up areas as well as the stringing area. All of these changes impact the players, but should not create any major concerns. The fans should not expect to see any major changes to their experience.
Major renovations set to begin next year
While renovations officially began in October of last year, the biggest renovations will occur in various stages from 2017 until 2019. The tournament is investing $400 million into these renovations. The biggest attraction will be the addition of a roof to Court Philippe-Chatrier.
This main stadium court will see an increase of 160 seats as well, which will be a welcome addition to the tennis center. The second main court, Court Suzanne Lenglen, will largely remain unchanged. The tournament will be constructing a new court to replace Court 1 and will be located in the Jardin des Serres D’Auteuil, which translates to the Greenhouse Garden of Auteuil.
According to the official website, “A new court is destined to replace Court Number one and, in tournament configuration, extend the perimeter of the stadium. It will be built in the south-western part of the Garden which comprises buildings which are not listed as historic monuments. With its semi-sunken design, inspired by the historic greenhouses created by the architect Formigé, the court will be surrounded by new greenhouses and be in perfectly harmony with the Garden."
"The building of the new greenhouses which will surround the four sides of the future "Greenhouse court" will be part of the renovation project of the Botanical Gardens aimed at strengthening the educational and scientific aspects of the site. Around the tennis court, 1,370 meters squares of greenhouses will be devoted to the tropical flora of the Americas, Africa, Oceania and Asia. A new lay-out combined with educational signage to emphasize the importance of the plants will enable visitors to make the most of these exception botanical collections all year round.”
Renovations place an emphasis on environmental protection
According to the main website, the stadium and grounds renovations will be done with a large emphasis on the environment. In addition to the greenhouses being built around the new court replacing court 1, “The new lay-out, which is the work of famous landscape designer Michel Corajoud, will continue the French Tennis Federation’s move towards sustainability whilst opening up the new stadium to its surrounding environment. This is certainly an ambitious project, but unlike many others of recent years which seem to think that bigger is automatically better, this one is reasonable and balanced and fulfills the needs of a city stadium.”
Players to see major changes starting in 2019
While of course these renovations will largely benefit the fans and spectators, the tournament has placed an emphasis on the players, as they should. Without the stars, Roland Garros would not be as it is today. Expected to be finished in 2019, the stars of the game should expect a brand-new fitness center, facilities closer to Court Philippe-Chatrier, new private physio rooms, as well as a lounge and restaurant reserved solely for the players and their coaches. The tournament hopes that these improvements will continue to make Roland Garros one of the premier tennis events in the world.
2016 French Open to begin on May 16th
Despite the renovations, the 2016 French Open is set to begin in just over three weeks. The qualification tournament will run from May 16th until May 20th. The tournament will host the annual Roland Garros Kid’s Day on Saturday the 21st, before the main draw is set to begin on Sunday, May 22nd. All of the ATP World Tour and WTA’s top stars are expected to compete.