Tennis facelift ‘a must’ to hit world stage
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.