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SBD/Issue 175/Facilities & Venues
French Federation To Renovate Roland Garros Or Move Open
Published May 24, 2010
|FFT Wants To Expand, Modernize Roland
Garros Facilities Or Move Out Of Paris
The French Tennis Federation (FFT) Saturday announced a "major planning effort to expand and modernize" its Roland Garros complex or to "move all operations -- and the French Open -- out of the city" of Paris, according to John Martin of the N.Y. TIMES. French Open Dir General Gilbert Ysern and other federation officials said that they want a "chance to stay within" the Bois de Boulogne area and to "build two stadiums with retractable roofs as part of a modernization effort that would cost an estimated" US$255M. Ysern said that relocation would cost an estimated US$755M, which would be "borrowed from commercial banks." FFT officials argued that the 19.8 acres at Roland Garros, the current home of the French Open, the "smallest of the four major international championship sites, must be expanded to avoid potential loss of fan and player interest caused by cramped facilities." If the FFT and French Open were to move, one "potential destination under study is Marne-le-Vallee, the site of Disneyland Paris." A second potential site "covers 148 acres in Versailles," while Ysern said that a third possible destination being studied is "smaller, 74 acres, in an area northwest of Paris called Gonesse." FFT officials said that they plan to build a "vast headquarters and French Open facility composed of 55 clay courts, including two large outdoor courts with retractable roofs holding 18,000 and 12,000 spectators." FFT officials said that they "plan to narrow their three relocation choices to a single 'challenge' site that would compete for acceptance with a modernization of the existing Roland Garros facility." They said that they "hope to make a decision by early next year." Ysern: "We want to be the most beautiful tournament in the world. We want Roland Garros to be the strongest tournament in the world" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/23).
LEGITIMATE THREAT? The GLOBE & MAIL's Tom Tebbutt writes while the news is partly the FFT "posturing to win more land and construction concessions from the city, the hard truth remains that the current grounds do not stack up well in terms of space against the three other Grand Slams on the tennis calendar." The FFT "wants more space, as well as a stadium with a retractable roof." While the FFT has proposed "several sites for relocation," a "final-hour counterproposal by the city [of Paris] appears to have increased the chances that the Open will remain" at Roland Garros. Any expansion at the current site is "unlikely before 2013, at the earliest" (GLOBE & MAIL, 5/24). The AP's Samuel Petrequin noted the French Open "has been at Roland Garros since 1928 and the federation has a contract there till 2015." The FFT is "expected to make its decision in February." Among the Grand Slam tournaments, "only the French Open and Wimbledon have never been moved" (AP, 5/22).