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Educating Stuff: Wimbledon under construction

The building works on Courts 14 and 15
by Ben Swann
Wednesday 26 February 2014

The latest 'Educating stuff,' news and views from Wimbledon's Education Department, describes what it's like living on the Wimbledon building site...

It is a wonderful quirk of human nature that when faced with change we are at first hesitant to allow it, then once change has occurred it quickly becomes not just the accepted norm but often something we grow to appreciate.  So it is here at Wimbledon with the building work. 

Having been on site throughout the majority of the work carried out to put the roof on Centre Court and the construction of both No.2 Court and No.3 Court I am well used to Wimbledon becoming a building site after each Championships, but after the completion of the new No.3 Court in 2011, year-round building work has been blissfully quiet thanks in no small part to the hosting of the Olympic tennis tournament.  You can quickly get used to working in a quiet, beautiful setting as the grounds were for most of 2011/12 and so it was with a heavy heart then that I took on the news that after The Championships in 2013 Wimbledon would once more embrace the love of the hard hat and start demolishing buildings and courts to push itself further forward as a tennis tournament. 

When the diggers started attacking the lawns of Courts 14 and 15 the world seemed to look on in astonishment, I mean, who in their right mind would destroy the very essence of what makes them special; it seemed Wimbledon would.  As the digging progressed, so the holes became larger.  First it was a shallow muddy ditch, then a tennis court sized, unlined swimming pool and finally it became a whopping great monster of a hole about 100m x 50m with a depth great enough to swallow a traditional two storey house.  It was truly fantastic. 

As part of my job involves guiding groups around the site I was privileged enough to see these holes grow day by day and as such each new truckload of soil removed and every yellow backed, steel toe capped, hard hat-ed person moving below became a source of entertainment and wonder.  Now that they have dug the hole, how will the digger get out? How many tons of concrete will the put back in? Why don’t the people working on my house do so at the same speed and efficiency as these guys? What does the man in the 100ft crane do when he needs the bathroom?  These and many more questions like it filled my head. 

Strangely the groups seemed to be less impressed with the hole than I was, perhaps this was because they were only capturing a snapshot of the works (quite literally as we now live in an age of photographing every minute aspect of our lives), or perhaps it is because a hole in the ground at Wimbledon really isn’t as impressive as I think.  It did warrant a good remark from an American student though who upon learning of the reason why we have an electric fence around certain courts (to keep the foxes off the lawns so they don’t dig holes for one thing) he looked into the gargantuan holes of Court 14 and 15 and said , ‘you’re going need a bigger fence’.

Now the holes are almost completely gone.  The Championships are beginning to loom and the building works must now be hidden form sight.  The concrete floors and ceiling of the basement level are in place and the drainage for the new Courts 14 and 15 are being put down. 

Soon the groundstaff will arrive with their ever expanding array of wonder tools and will, like the ‘cleaners’ in a spy movie, remove all trace of building work and leave in its place two of the most beautiful lawns in the world.  I look forward to witnessing this but I still miss those holes, they were just so, so big and perfectly level and plumb and as any child who has ever tried to dig a hole will tell you, this is no mean feat. 

I suppose we all get used to things very quickly and as noisy, dirty and hateful the thought of a building site might be sometimes they can be surprising places, and when they are gone, you sort of miss them.

If you would like to show your students how a building site should look then why not book on one of our Educational Tours and see for yourself how much wonder there is in change.

 


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