Officials fear French Open has outgrown Roland Garros

March 23rd, 2010 - 3:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Paris, March 23 (DPA) French Open tennis officials sent up warning flares that the clay-court Grand Slam could face eventual eviction from its hallowed Roland Garros site due to public and environmentalist opposition to a much-needed expansion.
Tournament director Gilbert Ysern laid it all on the line: “We have two options, we can make it bigger or move out. It would be heartbreaking to leave Paris, but we have to consider it.”

The tree-shaded complex named after a French World War I aviator has become increasingly crowded as the event has grown in stature in recent decades.

It’s Court Central, even with 15,000 capacity, needs more seats.

“Roland Garros cannot stay the way it is,” Ysern said.

But protests and bureaucratic wrangling in the Paris government offices could result in a ban on further expansion, including a project to add a Wimbledon-style moveable roof to Court Central.

Tournament bosses fear they could be left with no option but to move the event from its home near the Bois de Boulogne in the west of the capital.

A proposal to use nearby - but unconnected - land in the area to create a new showcourt has been running into trouble with the City. An idea to build a major court in the Bois has also run into serious opposition, too.

The final decision on the fate of the event is expected in 11 months during a general assembly of the French federation.

French Open officials point out that their three fellow Grand Slams have all upgraded facilities, with Paris falling behind.

Several distant locations which could possibly host what is considered the most elegant of the majors are are all located up to 15 kilometres away.

The Australian Open faced a similar space situation two decades ago, finally moving from historic but tiny Kooyong club to the current riverside Melbourne Park complex, now boasting two covered showcourts with more planned.

The US Open made a switch from a private club in New York to what can be considered a charmless but ample location in downmarket Flushing Meadows across the East River.

Wimbledon, whose Centre court now boasts a retractable roof, has remained at the All England Club after moving from South London a century ago.

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