The word at Wimbledon
The visitors that come to the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club Wimbledon out of season often remark about the quantity and scale of the works in progress. For the last ten years there has been ongoing development that will continue, probably foranother ten years.
As soon as the last tennis has been played for the year, the construction begins in earnest, to be ready at the start of next season, even the Christmas holidays provide little respite for the contractors and ourselves. Presently there are new developments in various stages in Wimbledon's continued efforts to keep the venue at the top of the professional tennis circuit. The developments include the provision of new tennis courts but also stand modification and general landscaping, the latter of which is modelled on a theme of Tennyson's English Garden, consisting of both static and mobile features. The static features include stone and brick built pergolas, draped in Wisteria, with running water features.
We currently provide 33 grass courts of which nineteen of them are match courts, we hope to add a further two practice courts that will be available for use in 2003. Further to the grass courts we also maintain 16 artificial surfaces comprising of four en-tout-cas shell, an American fast dry, four European clay, two acrylic and five indoor courts. These courts are for the use of our club members.
With the new generations of synthetic surfaces available, there is healthy competition, but the clubs philosophy is an emphasis on grass courts. We are continually looking to improve our courts and with the help of Dr Andy Newell have managed to increase the courts performance each year by 1-2%. This year's fortnight saw 20% more use than last year and encouragingly there was 2-3% more grass cover at the end of the tournament. We are changing the grass plant content with new cultivars each year, producing better grass quality and durability.
During the tournament fortnight the courts are tested for hardness to help us to provide an optimum ball bounce without causing the courts to crack.
I should point out that this work is based on all of our courts so that we have continuity for the players. A player practising on an outside practice court will find similar conditions of bounce, hardness and grass cover as on any of the match courts.
Through Andy and his team we now produce very precise research data that provides us with accurate information to plan forthcoming work. The information that is now being produced will give accurate future guidelines for the successors of my generation. This data is provided independently and the reports go to the committee before I see them. These reports also help to back us up, recently a certain player had complained that the No1 court was harder than Centre court, science gave us the facts and the player wholeheartedly agreed.
Overall though, we have had very positive feedback from the players.
Much of the ongoing work has been planned up to two years in advance and therefore requires much preparation alongside the architects. It also means that I am very busy, and if I am busy then it means that I am being consulted.
As stated before, I have a tremendous team around me. The team of fourteen full time staff are responsible for all of the day-to-day routine operations as well as one off constructions and renovations. While I, sadly in many respects, have little time for hands on maintenance, the team each know their jobs and work well together. From March through to September we employ another fourteen part time staff, these people are recruited at least a year in advance and tend to come from either colleges like Myerscough or from overseas such as Australia and Canada.
As with all of our suppliers, pre-planning is vital to ensure that uncontrollable last minute problems will never leave us high and dry.