Rod Laver Arena saved from wrecking ball

January 26th, 2009 - 2:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Melbourne, Jan 26 (DPA) The showcase Rod Laver Arena will escape the wrecking ball in an ambitious redevelopment plan expected to guarantee the Australian Open tennis event a home in Melbourne until at least 2036. Victoria premier John Brumby made the announcement Monday as the first major of the season enters its second week.

Plans for revitalising the riverside site include an initial spend of $5 million to take the master plan through the development stage.

The state government and Tennis Australia have promised a renewal of the 20-year-old Laver arena, which only last year underwent an interim fix-up to enlarge player facilities and amenities.

This time around, the plans are much more expansive, with a Town Square piazza set for the middle of the sprawling complex on the banks of the Yarra river and other amenities on the drawing board.

A roof will be placed over the Margaret Court arena, giving the Open three covered showcourts, a first for the four Grand Slams.

“The proposal places a strong emphasis on the comfort of patrons, with more open space and shade, increased seating capacity and better connections to public transport,” said Brumby.

Melbourne has been under pressure with the current Open contract running only until 2016 and rivals including Sydney and well-funded Asian powerhouses like Shanghai eager to snatch the event away.

Officials said that the event generates around $110 million per year for the Victorian economy, with 650,000 visitor attending the tournament and a worldwide television viewership of nearly 250 million people.

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