There’s no shortage of history at the famed All-England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, more commonly known as Wimbledon. It’s the host of the oldest tournament in the world and still sticks quite rigidly to traditions, such as silence when players serve and starting the day with strawberries and cream.
So any time there are possible changes to be made to the hallowed grounds, it’s a major decision that involves a lot of people, time and money. Among the most recent upgrades to the historic complex was the 2009 addition of a retractable roof and updated Lutron lighting controls at Wimbledon Centre Court.
The roof and lighting upgrades ensure that championship matchups in the 130-year-old tournament won’t be interrupted by England’s often-fickle weather from heavy rain to unbearable heat to unpredictable winds, an issue that cropped up many times before the roof was added and the glare-reducing lighting control system was installed.
Embracing the Wimbledon Challenge
As you’d expect when refurbishing a building that’s more than 90 years old, ME Engineers encountered a few obstacles in their quest to satisfy the customer. Among the challenges: coordinating a lighting upgrade on one of the lowest roof spaces in any professional sports venue and meeting the high illuminance levels required by the BBC for its high-definition coverage of the event.
Club officials also wanted an easy, fail-safe way to control the lights for all Centre Court matches, whether the world was watching or not. The project that began in 2009 took another step forward this year, when officials replaced its slow-start, high-energy HID lighting with LED fixtures and upgraded to a Lutron Quantum Total Light Management system with Quantum Vue facility management software.
Not only is Wimbledon Centre Court lighting now impervious to Mother Nature’s fickle ways, but it is more responsive, can be turned on and off with no delay or warm-up time, and ensures flicker-free performance in real time as well as during slow-motion replay.
Solving Wimbledon’s Issues
ME Engineers worked with the architect, Populous, and the client, and introduced the technique of indirect sports lighting. By reflecting some of the light off the roof itself, ME engineers were able to add a layer of diffused light to blanket the court and reduce the number of direct luminaires required, minimizing glare for spectators and viewers.
For the lighting upgrade, ME Engineers director Russel Evans knew the LED fixtures would only be as good as their ability to be meticulously programmed and controlled. He turned to Lutron for a lighting control system that not only delivered superb performance but could respond to exacting demands for tournament security and predictable reliability.
“The sliding roof was lower than in any other major professional venue, creating a potential problem with glare,” said Corey Berhost of ME Engineers. “From the selection of a fabric roof membrane to the color selection of the moving roof trusses, everything had an effect on system integration.”
Lutron: Serving Up Championship Results
The original GRAFIK 7000 system, installed in 2009, was programmed with two distinct operating modes: championship and non-championship. As a result of the recent Lutron Quantum upgrade, and with the proper password permissions, all lighting in Centre Court can be controlled remotely from within the championship space. Additional levels of security can be assigned per event. This ensures lighting is able to react instantaneously to accommodate player needs without any chance of compromising the system at any time.
Working with the Lutron Services Team, ME Engineers was able to utilize the original GRAFIK XP dimming panels, while upgrading the processors, and installing a much-improved Graphical User Interface (GUI) that simplifies changes and offers cleaner, crisper graphics that are “much nicer to work with,” according to Evans.
The new lighting control system “can be perfectly tuned for each event from within the Championship venue,” he said.
The lighting upgrade has proven so successful that there are future plans to roll this solution out to Court Number One as well. Quantum Vue software will enable the entire system to be monitored and controlled securely from a central location.
Wimbledon Security Concerns
Police set up vehicle barriers along the roads around the All England Club under a beefed-up security plan after a series of attacks around London in recent months.
Club chief executive Richard Lewis said most of the new measures were “below the radar.” Among the changes visible to spectators and players at the tournament were the installation of the waist-high black barricades around the outside of the grounds and the presence of armed officers at each gate.
Security has become a greater concern in England in recent months. A man drove into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in March, killing four and fatally stabbing a police officer outside Westminster Palace. Last month, attackers used a vehicle and knives to kill eight people and wound dozens on London Bridge and in nearby Borough Market, and in a separate incident, a man drove into people spilling out of mosques in the Finsbury Park neighborhood after Ramadan services.
The vehicle barriers lined Church Road, the main public approach to the grounds, between Gate 1 and Gate 5. Bomb-sniffing dogs also were present throughout the complex, with several of them searching outside Gate 20, where broadcast trucks enter the compound.
Security extended far outside the grounds, with a half-dozen police officers and stewards in high-visibility vests congregating outside Southfields, a London Underground station about 1 mile away.
The tournament released a statement on its website last month to outline its partnership with the Metropolitan Police and facilitate screenings. Fans line up for hours before play begins to secure a ticket for the day, and Lewis said there is no plan to end that tradition for security reasons.
In another nod to keeping the facility secure and fan-friendly, two years ago, police seized a drone being flown over the home of Wimbledon.