Tennis fans will be treated to a bigger and better Australian Open with more space, entertainment, shade and food options when the grand slam hits Melbourne in 11 days.
The finishing touches are being applied to Melbourne Park, which will this year have the biggest footprint of any tennis major in the world with the site stretching from Olympic Boulevard to the CBD.
The Herald Sun on Wednesday took a sneak peek at what awaits fans, including a revamped Garden Square, Grand Slam Oval and new main entrance via a footbridge from Birrarung Marr.
Garden Square — where fans gather around a fountain to watch centre court action on a big screen — boasts more space, an Aperol Spritz bar, food stalls and a branch of New York restaurant Sea Grill.
A new children’s zone, The Ball Park, will feature Lego and Nerf zones, a sandpit, climbing wall, trampoline, entertainment stage and tennis courts.
Glass walls and seating have been installed at practice courts so fans can get close to their tennis heroes.
Tennis Australia director Tom Larner said “heaps of changes’’ to the spectator experience could lure record crowds after an unprecedented 720,363 fans attended last year.
“We’ve grown as a site over the last few years and the expansion into Birrarung Marr as part of the Australian Open has meant we’ve been able to provide more bands, music, hospitality and entertainment,’’ he said.
“And offerings such as the Australian Open Ballpark, specifically aimed at kids and giving kids more to do on site in addition to the tennis, will be a real benefit for this year.’’
This year’s Open footprint will be 720,363sq m — more than twice the size of the US Open in New York, the next biggest grand slam event.
It includes a new home of music at Birrarung Marr, which will feature the likes of The Temper Trap, Missy Higgins and Peking Duk, and a centre court digital wall with better picture quality than Times Square.
“It will be the biggest footprint of any grand slam, of any tennis event and certainly of any Australian Open we’ve ever had,’’ Mr Larner said.
“For us, it’s about being the best event in Australia, the best event for our fans.’’