27 Jan 2009

Redevelopment for Melbourne Park

8:39 am on 27 January 2009

Australian Open tennis organisers have reached a deal with the local state government to redevelop the facilities at Melbourne Park to ensure the grand slam remains at its current site.

Melbourne Park has a contract to host the first grand slam of the year until 2016 but tennis and government officials have unveiled plans to keep it there permanently.

The Victoria state government says the plans include increasing the seating capacity on the showcourts, building a roof over the Margaret Court Arena, a massive undercover courtyard for spectators and improving player and media facilities.

Tennis Australia president Geoff Pollard says he hopes the redevelopments will also end the annual argument about the timing of the event.

The scheduling of the Australian Open has always been a sensitive issue. Local organisers like to run it in January during school holidays to attract bigger crowds.

But players have been calling for the event to be moved back to February or March when the weather is cooler and so they can have a longer off-season.

The Australian Open has become the centre of a tug of war between the country's two most populated states after New South Wales announced plans to poach the event from Victoria.

Although the tournament has been shared between Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth and even New Zealand since it's inception in 1905, it has been played continually at Melbourne Park since 1988.