Ten­nis facelift ‘a must’ to hit world stage

Sunday Mail - - NEWS -

The Davis Cup cap­tain says Ade­laide must act quickly to take ad­van­tage of pro­fes­sional ten­nis changes with the new ATP World Team Cup to be held in Aus­tralia from Jan­uary 2020.

“If South Aus­tralia stands up and ac­tu­ally takes it on and wants to do some­thing and shows that they are proac­tive then that’s where you can say ‘OK, maybe we can get a tour­na­ment back’,” He­witt said.

“One of the sad­dest things for me was when the Ade­laide tour­na­ment moved to Bris­bane and that’s where it all started for me, grow­ing up watch­ing it as a kid. I saw all the greats come and play and then for that to go.

“Have a look at the cen­tre of Bris­bane com­pared to Memo­rial Drive now, you can’t com­pare the two, so you see why it went there.

“It’s sold out all the time, it’s a fan­tas­tic venue, it’s a fan­tas­tic event but it still hurts. The ex­hi­bi­tion event in Ade­laide the week be­fore the Open isn’t the same as a proper tour­na­ment.”

The Ad­ver­tiser last week re­vealed Ade­laide would miss out if Aus­tralia suc­cess­fully bid to host the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup be­cause there was not a suit­able sta­dium avail­able.

“I love Memo­rial Drive but whether it’s a multi-pur­pose re­tractable roof, what­ever it may be, some­thing bas­ket­ball, net­ball, ev­ery­thing can play in, it would be great for the city,” He­witt said.

“We are for­tu­nate we have the area that’s so close to the city to be able to make a ten­nis cen­tre. We don’t have to go and do it some­where else.”

He­witt said an ini­tial $10 mil­lion up­grade – cre­at­ing 37 courts across four dif­fer­ent sur­faces – of the Ten­nis SA and ad­ja­cent Next Gen­er­a­tion ten­nis fa­cil­i­ties over the past year was com­mend­able but more needed to be done.

“It’s fine they have done a part of a re­de­vel­op­ment but still that’s not the main thing, that’s not the thing that’s needed – the thing that’s needed is the cen­tre court, the sta­dium,” he said. The Memo­rial Drive fa­cil­i­ties – ad­ja­cent to Next Gen­er­a­tion fit­ness club – are leased from the Ade­laide City Coun­cil in a piece­meal own­er­ship deal that has 30 years to run.

Ten­nis courts were opened on Memo­rial Drive in 1921 and the ex­ist­ing north­ern grand­stand was built in 1938. It was once a reg­u­lar Davis Cup venue but last hosted a fi­nal 50 years ago.

It is un­der­stood the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment funded $10 mil­lion was crit­i­cal in help­ing Ade­laide se­cure its first Davis Cup tie in 15 years when Aus­tralia plays Bos­nia and Herze­gov­ina on Fe­bru­ary 1 and 2 next year.

The Ad­ver­tiser in Jan­uary re­vealed a 6000-seat, canopy­cov­ered sta­dium, host­ing bas­ket­ball, net­ball, con­certs and other events, was pro­posed as part of a $150 mil­lion re­de­vel­op­ment of Memo­rial Drive.

Fed­eral Lib­eral MP John Alexan­der – the youngest player to rep­re­sent Aus­tralia at the Davis Cup and a founder of the Next Gen­er­a­tion fit­ness club in Ade­laide 20 years ago – said a new sports fa­cil­ity needed to be multi-pur­pose.

“Mel­bourne has a sports precinct, ten­nis courts and soc­cer pitch. You have to ac­ti­vate so it is used more like Rod Laver Arena. A lot of peo­ple in Mel­bourne think it’s a con­cert hall,” Mr Alexan­der said.

Trea­surer Rob Lu­cas said the State Gov­ern­ment was pri­ori­tis­ing in­vest­ment in health, ed­u­ca­tion and child pro­tec­tion.

“Sig­nif­i­cant tax­payer-funded ex­pen­di­ture on large-scale sport­ing up­grades or new sta­di­ums will be con­sid­ered with all other fund­ing sub­mis­sions in the lead-up to next year’s Bud­get,” Mr Lu­cas said.

PLANS: An artist's im­pres­sion of the pro­posed Memo­rial Drive re­de­vel­op­ment, be­low. BE­LOW LEFT: Lley­ton He­witt.

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