Melbourne Park is a sports venue in the Melbourne Sports and Entertainment Precinct in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Since 1988, Melbourne Park has been home of the Australian Open in tennis, which is played annually in January. The venue was the home of the Melbourne Tigers basketball team, and can be adapted to host netball, ice skating, concerts, cycling as well as swimming and motorsport events. It is owned by Melbourne & Olympic Parks, which also runs the adjacent Melbourne Rectangular Stadium. The Yarra Park section of the Sports and Entertainment Precinct is run separately.
Melbourne Park was built in 1988 beside the Jolimont Yard as a new venue to host the Australian Open, as Kooyong, the previous venue, had become too small. It was originally known as Flinders Park until 1996, when then-Premier, Jeff Kennett decided to rename it Melbourne Park, mainly to advertise the name "Melbourne" to a wide international audience. The decision was met with strong opposition, and was compared by some to renaming Stade Roland Garros (home to the French Open in Paris) "Paris Park". However, over the years, it has become accepted by the Melbourne community.
While it is best known for being a tennis venue, Melbourne Park also plays host to a number of other sports and musical events throughout the year. The venue tends to be used by more popular international performers, as it is the largest that the city has to offer, excluding the Docklands Stadium in the Docklands and the nearby Melbourne Cricket Ground, which are both hugely expensive.
Eric Clapton performed at the park on November 15, 1990 during his Journeyman World Tour in front of a sold out crowd of 15,000 people. The Two Tribes dance festival was held there annually. Rod Laver Arena was the venue for The Eagles' Emmy Award-winning 2005 "Farewell 1 Tour: Live from Melbourne" double-DVD recording. Pearl Jam's concert of 17 March 1995 at the 'Flinders Park Tennis Centre' was broadcast live on Australian radio.
Capacity and facilities
Formerly known as Centre Court, Rod Laver Arena has a capacity of nearly 15,000, and has a retractable roof. The second largest court is Hisense Arena (temporarily known as the Multi-Purpose Venue during the 2006 Commonwealth Games), which was opened in 2000. It has a capacity of 10,500, and also has a retractable roof. There are also three show courts, with the former Show Court 1 now named the Margaret Court Arena. Margaret Court Arena has recently had a retractable roof added and its capacity expanded to 7,500. This now leaves Melbourne Park with three courts available for wet and extreme weather play during the Australian Open.
Melbourne Park is adjacent to the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Yarra Park, and there are several pedestrian bridges linking the two across the separating railway lines. The park is five minutes walk from Richmond and Jolimont railway stations, and five minutes from the city centre by tram (route 70) or ten minutes on foot.
In June 2015, it was announced that the Rod Laver Arena would undergo a redevopment of its exterior facade and interior customer features, such as bars and other facilities. Overall, more than $700 million is being spent on the multi-year redevelopment of the Melbourne Park precinct, which includes a new pedestrian bridge linking Melbourne Park and Birrarung Marr. Construction will begin in February 2016 though completion of all works at the precinct is not expected to finish until 2020.
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