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All England Lawn Tennis Club: Retractable Roofs at Wimbledon

The prestigious Championships at Wimbledon needed a way to avoid those frustrating words, "rain stops play".

SCX Special Projects engineered two retractable concertina roofs so that the tennis can continue even if the weather doesn't play fair. Our first roof, over Centre Court, saw match play for the first time in 2009. Our second roof, over No.1 Court, was revealed in 2019.

The challenge

The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) required a solution to avoid rain stopping play at its prestigious world-class tennis tournament, The Championships at Wimbledon.

Suspended play is frustrating for many reasons: the players and crowd are forced to wait and hope for play to resume; sponsors and television viewers lose the impact of a flowing game; and the tournament schedule can be affected.

The solution

Image: Aerial view of both SCX retractable roofs at Wimbledon © 2019 AELTC / Joe Toth

 

In 2006, a significant redevelopment of Centre Court presented the opportunity to tackle the ‘rain stops play’ problem. Then, 10 years on, the opportunity repeated itself with 2016’s redevelopment of the No.1 Court complex.

SCX Special Projects engineered, built, tested and installed the retractable concertina roofs over both stadiums. The roofs provide rain cover when needed, whilst retaining the traditional open-air feel of Wimbledon’s grass court matches.

“We are delighted that the No.1 Court roof has been successfully used on several occasions, which has enabled us to complete matches that otherwise may have been suspended.”

Richard Lewis, Chief Executive, AELTC

Iconic engineering

  • The retractable trusses – 10 on Centre Court, 11 on No.1 Court – have become an iconic sight at Wimbledon
  • Each truss weighs more than 80 tonnes, and with its fabric cover, motors and controls, each roof weighs over 1,000 tonnes
  • Electric motors and actuators move, deploy and retract the roof, controlled by a bespoke EC&I system

Performance and reality

  • Both roofs can be fully deployed or retracted in under 10 minutes
  • Operation is via a custom SCADA desk, providing simple roof controls alongside detailed roof speed, position, angle and alarm information, plus temperature and wind speed
  • SCX Special Projects has maintained the roofs and their systems since installation

Innovation throughout

  • The roofs are world-renowned examples of our mechanical, electrical and controls innovation
  • Both roofs also act as sun shades for the Royal Box and a lighting gantry for overcast and evening matches
  • Engineering, build, test and installation were all delivered by SCX Special Projects

 

Build and test

  • A trial ‘build and test’ programme was conducted in Sheffield for the original Centre Court roof
  • A full-scale section of roof was constructed, with the same constraints as Centre Court, to prove the build plan, operation and maintenance
  • Movements, deflections and waterproofing were all part of the thorough testing phase
 
A significant feat of engineering

  • 2,000 days of design, 6,500 days of installation, 25,000 individual parts, 25km of electrical cabling
  • Fully deployed, the roofs are 75 metres wide, 90 metres long, and sit 17 metres above the grass court surface
  • The Centre Court design was so fundamentally right, it is nearly mechanically identical to its newer counterpart on No.1 Court – the most significant changes are improved electrical controls

 

Power and control

  • Each truss sits on a ‘drive bogie’ with four driven wheels and two gearboxes, which can be positioned with millimetre precision along the rails
  • Between each truss are 13-tonne ‘end arms’, driven by high-precision, high-capacity 35-tonne actuators
  • The trusses are joined by restraint arms to tension the Gore-Tex fabric and give the roof extra rigidity once deployed

Whatever the weather

  • When it rains, the roof deploys and ‘batwings’ seal the gap between the stadium and the fabric roof for waterproofing and air conditioning
  • In dull conditions, the deployed roof acts as a gantry for the flood lights
  • In clear conditions, individual trusses can be deployed in ‘sunshade’ mode to shield the Royal Box from the sun

 

A place in history

  • The Centre Court roof was deployed for the first time in competitive play on 29 June 2009, during a match between previous champion Amélie Mauresmo and Dinara Safina
  • The No.1 Court roof was deployed for the first time on 4 July 2019 during a match featuring Andy Murray and Pierre-Hugues Herbert

 

Let's talk more about the Wimbledon retractable roofs

SCX's design for the first Wimbledon roof in 2009 was so fundamentally correct that our second roof, a decade later, employed a near identical design. We live and breathe moving structures - and we can deliver your project from concept to final commissioning. Talk to us today.

Call us on +44 114 262 6199, email us at info@scx.co.uk, or complete the contact form below and we'll be in touch.
 

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SCX Special Projects Ltd
Roman Ridge Road,
Sheffield, S9 1GA
Tel: +44 (0)114 262 6199
Email: info@scx.co.uk