Wimbledon expansion plan given green light by local council
The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), the organisers of the prestigious Wimbledon Championships grand slam tennis tournament, has taken a significant step forward in its expansion plans via receiving approval from local council leaders in the UK.
The Merton Council’s development and planning application committee, in a vote on October 26, granted approval to the AELTC’s proposal to construct 39 new tennis courts – including an 8,000-seat show court – on the former site of the Wimbledon Park Golf Club, which is also owned by AELTC.
The golf club previously held a lease until 2041, but in December 2018 its members voted to allow AELTC to purchase the remaining 23-year lease for £65 million. As part of the deal, golf club members received £85,000 each.
A similar decision from the Wandsworth Council is expected in the coming weeks, representing one of several hurdles that the AELTC must clear before commencing work on the expansion.
If the AELTC’s plans move forward, the new courts are not expected to be operational until after 2030.
The expansion is intended to bring Wimbledon’s qualifying matches on-site, aligning with the practice at the other three grand slam tournaments in Melbourne, Paris and New York. Currently, Wimbledon qualifying events are held at the Bank of England Sports Centre in Roehampton, more than five kilometres away.
The proposed show court will feature a seating capacity of 8,000 and a roof, ensuring it can be used in all weather conditions, aligning with Wimbledon’s goal of having another roof-covered court.
In terms of visitor capacity, the additional site will accommodate up to 10,000 more spectators per day for the qualifying rounds and up to 50,000 people daily during the main two-week tournament.
Wimbledon plans to build a new 8,000 seat stadium & 38 other courts.
This will allow them to hold qualifying rounds on site. The plan would allow up to 10,000 fans per day for the qualifying tournament.
The expansion will take place on the former site of Wimbledon Park Golf… pic.twitter.com/uFir937J93
— The Tennis Letter (@TheTennisLetter) October 27, 2023
Sally Bolton, the Chief Executive of AELTC, expressed her delight at the Merton Council’s approval and highlighted the project’s significance in securing the future of The Championships and enhancing community amenities.
“We are delighted that the London Borough of Merton has resolved to approve our plans for the AELTC Wimbledon Park Project,” Bolton said.
“Our proposals will both secure the future of The Championships for generations to come by bringing qualifying to SW19 and provide a transformation in community amenities – including a new 23-acre park for everyone to enjoy on land which has been inaccessible to the public for over 100 years.
“We now look forward to the decision of Wandsworth Council’s Planning Committee in the coming weeks.”
Nevertheless, the expansion has faced opposition from local residents and leaders, including Stephen Hammond, the Conservative MP for Wimbledon. Hammond pointed out that building on the park area contradicts the recommendations regarding Metropolitan Open Land, a policy designed to prioritise green spaces in London.
The Merton Council’s report acknowledged that the development might cause ‘physical harm’ to the Metropolitan Open Land but concluded that the ‘very substantial public benefits’ of the proposal would outweigh the damage, constituting ‘very special circumstances’.
The next Wimbledon Championships are scheduled to take place from July 1 to 14, 2024.
Image credit: Daniel Cooper