Transforming tennis tradition: The massive new Wimbledon Park Project will more than double its size

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime project. Not many that come along like this."

July 10, 2024, 5:01 AM

LONDON -- Wimbledon is about to get bigger. A lot bigger.

If all goes ahead as planned, the Wimbledon Park Project will be a new and ambitious endeavor aimed at transforming the historic Wimbledon grounds by adding an extra 27 acres of land while simultaneously preserving its legacy and enhancing its community impact, according to Andrew Wayro, Wimbledon's senior design landscape manager.

"I think it's fundamental to us going forward as a championship," Wayro told ABC News in an interview a few days before the start of the 2024 Championships. "It's fundamental for tennis in the U.K. and for us as a Grand Slam, but it's also fundamental in terms of what we can offer in terms of other benefits to compete with the other Grand Slams as well as what we can offer to patrons who come to the event each year."

South facing aerial view of the new Wimbledon Park Project.
Wimbledon

The project promises to bring significant changes to Wimbledon by expanding the tennis landscape and offering new opportunities for both players and the local community.

The primary vision for the Wimbledon Park Project is to extend the grounds, more than doubling the size of the current grounds. Those changes would focus on the former golf course across the street, which is at the heart of the project.

The expansion aims to enhance practice arrangements and facilities for players, improve facilities for qualifying rounds -- which is currently held offsite, the only Grand Slam where this happens -- and offer a greater number of courts for wheelchair and junior competitions.

View northwards across Wimbledon Park Lake from new publicly accessible park at the new Wimbledon Park Project.
Wimbledon

"We did a lot of work before we even submitted our first planning application to the Greater London Authority," Wayro said. "We have made some adjustments, but by the time we got to submitting, we'd already worked through all the statutory consultees in the U.K., Historic England being a key partner in that. We also talked to people like Sports England and Natural England, to inform the design in the best possible way. We've made some minor tweaks along the way, like opening up an additional piece of parkland to the public because the Greater London Authority said that that was really important to them and that was something we could do."

The project, as planned, is divided into several zones. The northern part of the site will host the qualifying rounds, creating a seamless transition for players who, after qualifying, will be just a stone's throw away from Centre Court.

During the two-week period of The Championships, the grounds will utilize courts on the former golf course, including four main championship courts and the new Parkland Show Court which will have a capacity of up to 8,000 people and is currently slated to be built last, the crown jewel of the new project.

View from northern courts looking south at the new Wimbledon Park Project.
Wimbledon

Wayro says that this setup not only increases flexibility in terms of practice but also allows the courts to rest and be maintained, ensuring they are in the best condition throughout the tournament. Meanwhile, following The Championships, these new courts will be opened to the community and offer locals the opportunity to play on grass courts, extending the Wimbledon experience beyond just spectatorship.

"We're very keen to give as much benefit back as we can from the project," says Wayro. "We're very sure about the robustness of what we've designed in terms of this master plan."

A significant component of the Wimbledon Park Project is the creation of additional parkland which will open up 9.7 hectares of parkland to the public year-round with another 1.1-hectare section that will be accessible outside of the championships.

Lake edge from publicly accessible park at the new Wimbledon Park Project.
Wimbledon

"This transformation will essentially restore the landscape to its former glory, reminiscent of the works of the famous landscape architect Capability Brown, with rolling grasslands and scattered trees," said Wayro.

However, during the championships, these new parklands will serve as entrances with airport-style security which will reduce queuing times and allow fans to quicker and easier access to the tournament itself.

The final phase of construction will see the Parkland Show Court built right in the middle of the burgeoning new expansion. Designed to seat 8,000 spectators, this court will feature a roof, meaning more matches can be played in inclement weather, as well as new sustainability features – in line with Wimbledon's ongoing sustainability project – along with all hospitality and essential services that will be housed underneath the raked seating, "minimizing the footprint and maximizing functionality," according to Wayro.

Parkland Show Court at the new Wimbledon Park Project.
Wimbledon

"Has it been as complicated as it sounds? Yeah, it has," Wayro said. "It's been very detailed because you need to capture all of the technical data from all these different disciplines and bring it together into a big comprehensive project like this. That takes time and we have been working on it for the past five years before we even sent it for the Greater London Authority to consider."

Complicating matters even further is the fact that Wimbledon Park is a Grade II listed historical site and part of it is on the at-risk register due to its fragmented ownership and previous use.

Wayro said the new Wimbledon Park Project has addressed that by aiming to restore the landscape and bringing back historical features such as the original lake and opening up two brooks currently confined in concrete pipes along its perimeter. The ecological restoration will also include desilting the lake and enhancing existing habitats with reed beds and aquatic marginals -- the goal being to not only return wildlife to the area but to grow the wildlife population with a minimum of 10% biodiversity net gain.

Elevated view looking north over the qualifying courts during championships at the new Wimbledon Park Project.
Wimbledon

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime project. There aren't many that come along like this," said Wayro. "After the 2012 Olympics, I think this is really the next biggest new park and it is a massive expansion in terms of sporting events."

The next immediate step will be for Wimbledon to securing planning permission from the Greater London Authority with a decision expected later this year. If it is approved, it will take a minimum of a year before construction even begins, says Wayro, with the entire project expected to span over eight years and executed in phases around the new grounds.

The initial phase will focus on the lake and parkland restoration, followed by the construction of the qualifying courts and, eventually, the Parkland Show Court being completed by 2034 if all goes ahead as planned.

North facing aerial view of the new Wimbledon Park Project.
Wimbledon

Ultimately, the Wimbledon Park Project hopes to ensure that Wimbledon remains at the forefront of Grand Slams and other global tennis tournaments and even though there are still a few steps to go, Wimbledon officials are quietly hopeful about the future of the grounds.

"It's a big deal," said Wayro. "But it's been a pleasure for all of us. If you talk to anybody in the design team that we work with, they've all enjoyed being part of this project. This is our estate for hopefully hundreds and hundreds of years more and it is exciting to be a part of that legacy."

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