Wimbledon is home to one of the biggest tennis championship games in the world, dating back to 1877. In 2009, the home of the Wimbledon Tennis Tournament underwent a major building upgrade to their stadium. The ninety-year old stadium added a retractable roof and completely replaced the lighting system by retrofitting from metal halide lamps to LED bulbs to create a better playing and viewing experience for both the players and spectators of Center Court. Designed by SCX Special Projects Ltd, the roof made its special debut during the 2009 Championship games (3).
The most notable developments of the tennis club: (2)
- 1997: Broadcast Centre
- 1997: No.1 Court
- 2000: The Millennium Building
- 2009: New No. 2 Court with 4000 seats
- 2011: New No. 3 Court with 2000 seats
- 2015: New training facility improvements
- 2016: LED Lighting Retrofit
- 2018: Retractable Roof of Centre Court
Before renovations, the stadium was subject to variable weather conditions that caused challenges during the match. The focus of a new lighting system is based on the need to improve broadcast quality for televised tennis matches, as well as creating an effective lighting design that would work best with the proposed roof design.
One of the major difficulties during the stadium’s renovation was Centre Court’s low bearing roof. Since Wimbledon Stadium has one of the lowest roofs of any professional venue, it was difficult for lighting designers to recommend the best lighting design to minimize glare and eliminate spill light.
Coming up with Solutions
From Metal Halide to LED
Waiting for lights to warm up can stall the game and ruin broadcasting lighting levels. The retractable roof is fitted with LED lights that can be turned on when the roof is closed. Unlike metal halides, that can take up to 20 minutes to start up, these LED lights can automatically turn on and off in no time at all.
The All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club (AELTC) partnered with Musco Lighting and ME Engineering to update Wimbledon’s lighting system to LED. The team worked together to develop a lighting solution that could provide a cost-effective solution that would best combine with the retractable roof design. According to a press release from Musco lighting, “At the onset, project leaders visited the USTA’s Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York City—home of the U.S. Open—to see firsthand the performance of Musco’s LED technology, which was installed there the previous year(6).”
During the lighting project, the team created a full-size mock up and went through a series of tests, including testing different color temperatures and CRI’s to achieve optimal lighting for the court (4). They also brought in a broadcasting team to test the indirect lighting and broadcast quality.
What is Total Light Control (TLC)?
TLC is Musco’s patented LED technology created to provide a uniform light that can be evenly distributed across the court. This innovative technology helps eliminate glare and spill light that could ruin the tennis experience for the players on the court as well as the spectator at the stadium or on television at home (6).
Centre Court’s Retractable Roof
The new roof is divided into two sections with 4 bays in one section and 5 in the other. Designed with 5,200 square feet of PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) material, this lightweight retractable roof can easily open and close to optimize the playing conditions during tennis matches (7). The roof is made with ten steel trusses assembled on a track with hydraulic jacks to move the trusses to open and close the roof (7). The mechanism works to unfold the material until the two sections meet by overlapping each other over the court.
There are 72 indirect and direct LED high bay lights truss mounted at the top of the roof with a horizontal lighting level of 3,200 lux and a vertical lighting level 1,900 lux. These LED lights feature instant on capabilities and can easily be turned on manually once the roof has fully closed without any delays.
Fun Facts about the Retractable Roof at Wimbledon Centre Court
- Built in 1922, the original center court roof was replaced in 1992 (5).
- The original roof was removed back in 2006, and the 2007 Championship was played with no roof at all (5).
- The referee has ultimate control over use of the roof and his decision is final
- The roof takes about 8-10 minutes to open and close
- The moving roof weighs 1,000 metric tons and covers 5,200 sq. ft.
- Minimum standard ceiling height according to the ATP is 40 feet
- Wimbledon’s ceiling stands at about 52’ tall.
- Roof can withstand wind speeds up to 43 mph (5).
Upgrading the Facility: Reconfiguring the Grounds
In addition to the many improvements the club has undergone in the past few years, the AELTC continues to make major changes to strengthen and enhance Wimbledon as a world class sporting venue. Over the years they have developed plans to improve the grounds, reduce their carbon emissions, and conserve Wimbledon’s rich heritage. In 2013, the AELTC confirmed their plans to build a retractable roof over No.1 court (2). The roof is expected to be finished with construction by the time of the 2019 Wimbledon Championships (3).
Some of the major changes you can expect:
- Enhancing the grounds. The club plans to improve the landscaping along the pathways and around the entrances and tennis court grounds. The new landscape framework will enhance the ground experience and enrich the visitor’s experience (1).
- Promoting sustainability. The club has plans to enhance the landscaping areas and improve public and playing areas with sustainable green roofs (3).
- Enhancing the visitor’s experience. The club has plans to improve the public viewing areas and add new back of house accommodations for easy access to the courts (3). The team also plans to build a new plaza that will give visitor’s viewing access to the practice courts (1).
- Improving player accommodations. The club has plans to reconfigure the layout of the practice courts with direct access for the players (1).
- Fixing congestion for spectators. The club plans to improve movement and access in and around the courts, as well as add additional seating around No. 1 court and several other playing grounds (1).
- Indoor and Outdoor Tennis Court Lighting Standards
- Tennis Court Lighting: How to Assess your Current Lighting Design
- Retrofit Guide
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