Melbourne, 25 January 2011 | Darren Saligari

Hard to believe but Melbourne Park is 23 years old – if it was a tennis player it would be reaching its peak, but as one of the world’s best known sporting precincts, it’s due for an upgrade.

Twelve months ago a $363 million redevelopment was announced and today the second stage of that development – the Eastern Plaza – was unveiled.

Announced today by Sport and Recreation Minister Hugh Delahunty, Major Projects Minister Denis Napthine and Tennis Australia CEO Steve Wood, the new Eastern Plaza will be built between Hisense Arena and Punt Road.

With the early works project 10 months in, this second stage of development will begin mid-2011 and will include:

  • eight new indoor courts and 13 outdoor courts
  • warm-up and warm-down facilities
  • an elevated plaza for public use
  • a multilevel carpark for 1000 cars and 30 buses
  • a pedestrian bridge over Olympic Boulevard completing a direct pedestrian link between the MCG, Melbourne Park and AAMI Park.

Good news for Australian juniors as these new facilities will benefit their development enormously. As will the world’s elite players who travel to Melbourne for the Australian Open each year will win with more facilities available for practice.

“It’ll provide a major boost to the Australian Open as well as to our junior development programs. This facility will help us to continue to grow tennis in Australia with the new world-class training facilities,” said Wood.

“If you’re not in Australia, if you’re not here at the Australian Open then you’re not anywhere, because it is the most significant event right around the world.,” Delahunty said.

“We want to encourage not only people to come as visitors to the area, whether they be interstate, from Victoria or around the world for that matter.”

With the Australian open attracting more fans year on year up from 250,000 in 1988 to more than 650,000 in 2010, it’s clear that the popularity of this event is not decreasing. To counter this, increased public spaces in the $130 million Eastern Plaza will give punters more shaded areas to relax both during the Australian Open and year round, with the new facilities available for hire to the public.

The first stage of development will be completed by the Western Precinct, which will see Margaret Court Arena expanded and enclosed with a roof, the extension of the concourse surrounding Rod Laver Arena and upgrades to the areas beneath Rod Laver Arena. However, this work isn’t due to begin until 2012 with Stage 1 of the redevelopment completed in time for Australian Open 2015.

This multi-million dollar redevelopment guarantees that the Australian Open, the jewel in Victoria’s sporting crown, will stay in Melbourne until at least 2036.

“We want to ensure that the event continues through the development phase, but importantly we want to continue to make sure that this facility stays the home of not only the Australian Open but it continues to hold that status in the Grand Slam events throughout the world,” said Delahunty.