Retractable roofs have been all the rage in “American Sports”. We have seen a number of baseball stadiums incorporate this type of feature to prevent the rain outs that so many fans as well as vendors hate. Heck even the Arizona Cardinals in the National Football League one upped the retractable roof with the retractable field …. one that slides in and out of the stadium to allow for better growing of turf conditions in the hot and dry desert climate.

Now retractable roofs have hit the big time. That is right; tennis has recently seen this rage as well. It caused quite a stir earlier this year when a match in the Australian Open was put on hold. Earlier this January a mid match decision to close the roof in a match between Svetlana Kuznetsova and Serena Williams may have cost Kuznetsova a spot in the Semi’s.

The decision was made to close the roof as temperatures had the mercury popping in the mid day sun. In the past temperatures have been reported as high as 140 degrees Fahrenheit during matches in Melbourne.

Now Wimbledon has recently installed a similar roof contraption over the Centre Court, allowing for the normal gray and gloomy British conditions to be held at bay, and allow uninterrupted play at least on the feature court, during the tournament.

Fifteen Thousand Spectators turned out to watch exhibition matches involving Andre Agassi, Steffi Graf, Kim Clijsters and Tim Henman. This allowed Wimbledon to try out the new digs at the All England Tennis Club. Reportedly, when the structure came together, a round of applause broke out. Closing the new roof was timed in a smooth 7 minute and 4 seconds. Not exactly fast as the traffic on the M40, but at the same time a very acceptable time frame that does not amount to a whole lot more than an extended break between service sets.

One of the biggest worries was the new air control system. Not that the folks here in Jolly ol England will have to worry about the heat like they do down under in January, but lets face it, 15,000 rabid tennis fans in an enclosed building is about as steamy of an atmosphere as you can get. No sense having all those folks uncomfortable in the “closed roof” temperature would hit say 75 degrees or so.

So that gets us halfway home for the Grand Slam venues … but wait! The French Tennis Federation has started making plans for a new retractable roof to cover the Phillippe Chatrier Court at the Roland Garros tennis complex. It is slated for completion in time for the 2011 French Open championships.

And, here at home, USTA officials have also drawn up plans for a roof to cover the US Open’s Arthur Ashe stadium at Flushing Meadows, N.Y., after last year’s Men’s Final had to be moved to the third Monday of the tournament after weekend rain delays.

Thank goodness they can’t build domed golf courses for the PGA Tour!


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Johnny Goodman writes a weekly sports column for The Soap Boxers. His articles can be found in The Goodman File.

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