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Time for a 'Wimbledome'?
Posted: Wednesday June 30, 1999 05:55 PM
WIMBLEDON, England (AP)-- The first week of dry, warm weather at Wimbledon proved too good to be true. The curse of Wimbledon weather struck back with a vengeance.
All but five matches were rained out Monday. And not a competitive ball was struck Tuesday as the entire day's play was washed out.
It was the 30th complete washout in Wimbledon history, and the first since 1997, when two straight days were wiped out by rain.
All of which begs the question: Why not have a Wimbledome?
Paul McNamee, director of the Australian Open, says it's high time the All England Club put up a stadium roof.
The Australian Open has a sliding roof on its center court stadium and is building another on its main show court.
While Wimbledon wants to protect its tradition, McNamee said, the club should also consider the needs of fans, players and television.
"The easiest solution would have been to build Court 1 with a roof," he said. "That would have guaranteed play would have gone on at all times and you wouldn't have changed Centre Court at all."
Wimbledon had a chance to add a retractable roof when the new Court 1 was opened in 1997. But the attitude has been, it's an outdoor tournament and it will stay that way.
"Interestingly, the public here will still sit in the rain and have a good time," McNamee said. "But it could be better than that. In Australia we could not get away with it.
"Wimbledon is still able to get away with it, but I doubt if that can happen forever."
In a statement released Tuesday, the All England Club reiterated its reasons for not having a stadium roof:
the players prefer to play outdoors.
a covered court would not stand up to two week's play.
a roof on only one court would not significantly alleviate a backlog of matches and would be unfair to those players who were unable to play on the other 17 courts.
only a fraction of spectators would benefit.
a roof would damage "the very essence" of the tournament.
"Rain is tedious for everyone, and we understand and share the frustrations of fans during a rain delay," club chief executive Christopher Gorringe said.
"Putting roofs on Centre or No. 1 Court ... merely creates difficulties in other areas ... deciding which matches should be played indoors and whether those players who play indoors receive an unfair advantage over those who do not."
"Fans come to Wimbledon because they still want to see the world's finest tennis players in action outdoors, on grass and across all 18 courts," he said. "We continue to believe that should remain so."
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