The Australian Open venue will be upgraded and expanded with a third covered arena, improved players’ facilities and a large outdoor gathering area under a $3.3 million proposal unveiled Monday.
Victoria (state) Premier John Brumby said he hoped the investment would ensure that the Australian Open would remain in the city until at least 2036. Melbourne Park’s contract to host the tournament expires in 2016.
“This is the biggest event anywhere in the world in January, and we need to keep it,” Brumby said. “If we want to secure this venue and this Australian Open post-2016, we do need to make further investments.”
The plan includes a large piazza-style “Town Hall” that will be covered from the hot summer sun, a retractable roof for Margaret Court Arena, improved players’ facilities and more practice courts.
It will give Melbourne Park three covered arenas — Rod Laver Arena and Hisense Arena have retractable roofs.
Tennis Australia President Geoff Pollard said the 21-year-old Rod Laver Arena needed only “a bit of sprucing up,” not an expansion.
“We still maintain that 15,000 is the right size for a wonderful center court stadium for viewing tennis,” he said. “We don’t support getting bigger than that. There is no bad seat in Rod Laver Arena.”
The improvements will be undertaken over the course of many years so as not to disrupt the Open, which generates the equivalent of 1,000 full-time jobs.