The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) has begun a public consultation process for its plans to expand the grounds of the Wimbledon grand slam tournament, with the hope of beginning work on the project in 2022.
The AELTC announced today (Thursday) that the planning consultation is expected to conclude in June, with a planning application to be submitted in July. Subject to planning, the project would then begin in 2022 with the various aspects of the plan being delivered in sequence.
If the project goes to plan, the AELTC said it would be able to stage the qualifying rounds of Wimbledon within the extended grounds by 2028. The AELTC has been drawing up plans for the expansion after agreeing a deal to acquire Wimbledon Park Golf Club in December 2018.
The AELTC had already owned the lease on the golf club, but control of it was not due to revert back to the body until 2041. The AELTC struck a deal worth £65m (€76m/$90.5m) after Wimbledon Park members voted 82% in favour of the agreement.
The expansion would enable Wimbledon to keep pace with fellow grand slams the Australian Open, French Open and US Open, which have all undergone redevelopment projects in recent years. The addition of the golf club’s land will triple the size of the Wimbledon grounds from the 42 acres currently in place.
The AELTC has also provided an update on plans for this year’s Championships, which are due to run from June 28 to July 11.
Amid the ongoing uncertainty caused by COVID-19, the body said that the most likely outcome is for this year’s event to take place with a reduced number of spectators. The AELTC stressed that it would take every step to remain “as flexible as possible” to ensure it reacts to changing circumstances that may require an increase or decrease in fan attendance.
A decision on exact capacity plans will therefore be made as late as possible in order to maximise fan attendance and manage ticket distribution. As a result, everyone who was successful in the Wimbledon Public Ballot and paid for their tickets last year will be given the chance to buy tickets for the 2022 Championships.
A ballot will not be held for this year’s Championships, nor will the event’s famous Queue or ticket resale be in operation. Tickets will instead be made available online from June.
The UK government’s roadmap for the reopening of sectors, announced last month, detailed that all legal limits on social contact could potentially be lifted by June 21 – a week before Wimbledon starts.
The announcement led to optimism that events such as Wimbledon, the UEFA European Championships, golf’s Open Championship and Formula 1’s British Grand Prix could go ahead at full capacity and AELTC chairman Ian Hewitt is hopeful tennis can “play an exciting role”.
Hewitt said: “These remain challenging and uncertain times, and our thoughts continue to be with all those affected by the pandemic. Although the promise of a return to a more normal existence is on the horizon, we are not there yet. As such, we have taken some key decisions in order to provide us with some certainty in our planning, and yet also to retain flexibility where we need it the most.
“We remain committed to delivering on our aspiration of staging the best Championships possible. In line with the UK government’s roadmap, we are cautiously optimistic that The Championships will play an exciting role as the country begins to embrace a return towards normality. We remain humbled and heartened by the passion for Wimbledon shown by our fans around the world, and we so look forward to seeing the world’s best tennis players setting foot on our courts once again.”
Wimbledon was cancelled last year for the first time since World War Two after organisers conceded that challenges presented by COVID-19 would be insurmountable.