Soon, playing tennis at Wimbledon will no longer depend on the weather forecast, nor will spectators have to entertain themselves while they wait for the rain to stop and the courts to dry. A new retractable roof has been installed over Centre Court and the air management systems are currently being tested in preparation for its official debut in May. This new roof will is made out of translucent fully recyclable fabric, minimizing building materials while allowing daylight to stream down from above. The design will conclude the All England Club’s Long Term Plan, providing greater security for the grass courts, decreased play delays and more comfortable viewing for fans.
If you’re a fan of tennis, you’ve surely watched as it suddenly starts to downpour on a Wimbledon match. Rain at Wimbledon is just part of the tournament, just as much as is the grunting, the volunteers in their short shorts and the sparkling white outfits. It comes with the territory, but the rain also causes delays and can easily damage the courts, all of which cost money. Previously explored solutions included doming the whole roof permanently, however the decision to go with a retractable fabric roof struck us as a stroke of brilliance.
Structural engineering for the roof was provided by the UK firm, Capita Symonds, which includes design of the retractable fabric system, a partial redesign of the roof and most importantly the air management system. Even though the roof will halt the rain from pouring in, moisture from the lawn and people as well as humidity must be controlled in order to provide optimum playing and viewing conditions. The air management system will mostly control humidity and prevent condensation on the grass and underside of the roof, not to mention keep everyone looking dapper. The system will also ensure that enough oxygen is pumped into the stadium.
The roof itself is made from Tenara, a very lightweight, strong, flexible and most importantly waterproof architectural fabric. Stored on either side in accordion folds, the fabric takes up little room until needed. Upon notice of rain, the fabric is pulled across the court on trusses in less than 10 minutes and covers 5,200 sq meters. When fully deployed the fabric is 40% translucent – not transparent enough to see through, but enough to let in natural light to reach the grass below. Tenera is a non-toxic fluoropolymer and will not degrade during its useful life, but can be fully recycled.
Set to be completed before the May 17 Centre Court Celebrations, the new roof will surely make for a more enjoyable tennis tournament. Andre Agassi, Stefanie Graf, Tim Henman and Kim Clijsters will be some of the first players to play after the roof is installed. With a minimum amount of materials, a slight redesign and recyclable plastic, the All England Club came up with a good solution for Wimbledon and the rest of its events.