The rain delays that marred the first day of the ASB Classic could soon be a thing of the past, with Tennis Auckland today unveiling plans for the construction of a roof at the Stanley Street stadium.
The new roof build is part of wider plans to overhaul the venue, adding further seating and upgrading the lighting, player and hospitality facilities. The old Yock Stand on the western side of the stadium will be demolished, with continuous wraparound seating to be erected in its place.
However, with just 60 per cent of funding secured, Auckland Tennis chief executive Brent Robinson said the project has a critical six months ahead to ensure it gets off the ground. Just $10.5 million of the required $18.5m is currently in place, but Robinson has set his organisation the ambitious task of securing the balance of funding over the first half of this year to ensure pre-fabrication work can get under way off-site this year.
The plan is to then start construction on the Stanley Street site as soon as the sponsors tents are dismantled and advertising hoardings are packed away following the 2018 tournament.
"We're really confident in securing the balance but time is really of the essence."
"What we can't do is jeopardise how the ASB Classic is run next January, so what we have to do is undertake the complex build project around that tournament. Sticking to that timeline is really important," said Robinson.
Robinson said the balance of the funding will come from a mix of public, commercial and philanthropic outlets. Tennis Auckland expect to be able to unveil a funding partner in the next two weeks and they are also preparing a business case to put to the Lotteries Commission.
While yesterday's rain delays highlighted the value of a roof at the venue, Robinson said there are other more critical reasons for a redevelopment.
"It is actually about future-proofing the ASB Classic. There's actually a lot of criteria that we have to meet to host a WTA event and for a long time the ASB Classic hasn't met them."
"There's some real fundamentals like venue capacity and lighting that because of the ageing infrastructure we just don't meet."
Just two first round matches were completed on yesterday's opening day of the tournament due to the persistent rain delays, leaving fans who were eager to see the top seeds in action severely disappointed. Given the tournament is a sell-out, patrons who have tickets to sessions that are rained off cannot be accommodated at other times.
Today it was players unhappy with the conditions, with the wind giving tournament drawcard Serena Williams grief in her opening round match against Pauline Parmentier of France. Williams was clearly troubled by the wind swirling around the ASB Tennis Centre, sometimes needing two or three ball tosses before she was happy to serve. Her frustration spilled over mid-way through the second set, when Parmentier broke serve to take a 3-2 lead.
"This wind was really getting to me," Williams said after her 6-3 6-4 win over Parmentier.
"Every day I've practiced here it's been no wind and of course today I play and it is so windy.
It was fun...it wasn't fun actually. It was interesting."