Wimbledon Centre Court Retractable Roof

For years the most famous tennis tournament in the world was held at the mercy of the unpredictable British summer, but thanks to SCX Special Projects, this is no longer the case.

The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) appointed Galliford Try to raise Centre Court’s capacity from 13800 to 15000, installing wider, more comfortable seating and, above all, a new retractable roof. Due to the lack of space around Centre Court, a traditional sliding solid roof would have been unfeasible, and so architectural consultants Bianchi Morley developed the concept of a concertina-style folding roof. The design involved ten 100tonne trusses which would span the 77m width of the court, supporting approximately 5200m2 of roofing membrane, lighting and ventilation equipment.

The difficulty was in how to mobilise and control such a huge structure, so SCX Special Projects were called upon to solve the problem.

Rendering of a truss for the retractable roof at Wimbledon Centre Court

Each truss is mounted on two powered end carriages, which run on rails fixed to the static roof covering the grandstands. Folding V-shaped end arms link the trusses together and four vertically mounted actuators deploy to open these end arms out, pushing the trusses apart and opening the roof.

Trusses of the Wimbledon Centre Court roof holding up the roofing membrane

As each end arm opens out, the ‘wings’ of roofing membrane are deployed. These panels prevent rain or other elements entering from the side.

Restraint arm struts mounted on the top of each truss of the retractable roof at Wimbledon Centre Court

Restraint arm struts mounted on the top of each truss and powered by a further 36 actuators, also deploy to stabilise the roof. They provide additional support and rigidity to the structure and the fabric by holding the closed roof tighter in position, allowing operation in winds of up to 43mph.

Control desk for deployment of retractable roof at Wimbledon Centre Coourt

A total of 214 motor-driven parts control the roof, all automated to work in unison, meaning the 1000tonne roof can be fully deployed within 10minutes, at the push of a button.

Should the 120 specialist sports lights mounted on the trusses be used, a timed 10minute safety shutoff system enables the lights to cool before allowing the roof to be opened, preventing damage to the material of the roof as it concertinas.

Wimbledon Centre Court with roof partially deployed to provide shade and windbreak

As well as providing complete cover for the court, the roof can be partially deployed to provide multiple shade and windbreak settings.

First used on 29 June 2009, the roof has been faultlessly maintained throughout its life by SCX Special Projects engineers, who undertake both the mechanical and the electrical maintenance.

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SCX Special Projects Ltd

Roman Ridge Road, Sheffield, S9 1GA, United Kingdom

t:  +44 (0)114 262 6199