Spectator comfort is paramount for major sporting events. Even the most ardent fan would think twice about sitting in the sun for hours to watch their favourite tennis player. Home to the Australian Open, one of Australia’s premier sports events, the Melbourne Tennis Centre proposed to make patrons comfort a priority with a new lightweight, durable fabric roof structure for their Show Court 3.
This project was unique because the structure had to be designed to be temporary and rapidly demountable, but also able to be quickly converted into a permanent structure at low cost. This requirement drove a lot design decisions and details; extra money was spent on components and fixtures so that each bay had its own fabric panel that could be easily installed and de-installed by workers in a very short time period.
Added complexity to the design phase of the project was that the existing stadium seating was built a long time ago and the old structural blueprints showed that the mixture of precast and reinforced concrete would only be able to take a limited amount of extra loading. Multiple design ideas had to be cycled through to finalise a proposal that would not overload the existing structure, but was still simple to build and take down as a rapid erection temporary structure
A number of challenges were overcome in the construction phase of the project, including having limited site access for heavy vehicles in order to maintain the quality of the Melbourne Park grounds. The project also had a narrow delivery window, with handover from the design team occurring in August 2019, and construction was completed and ready for client handover in December 2019, a few weeks ahead of the 2020 Australian Open.
The canopy around Show Court 3 proved extremely popular with fans during the Australian Open, and planning is now under way to make the structure permanent.