The Australian Open, currently underway in Melbourne, attracts the world’s best tennis players and record crowds but also has to manage January’s extreme heat conditions.

The tennis tournament, which is the largest annual sporting event in the Southern Hemisphere, attracted a record breaking 728,000 fans in 2018. Attendance on this scale is remarkable considering the Australian Open takes place during one of the consistently hottest periods of the year in Australia.

With competitors and spectators alike susceptible to these high temperatures, Melbourne & Olympic Parks (M&OP) – the organisation responsible for the Melbourne Park and Olympic Park precincts - has made a number of significant developments and enhancements to their stadia to ensure energy efficiency and human comfort are prioritised.

M&OP is the custodian of two Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certified buildings – Margaret Court Arena and the National Tennis Centre. Margaret Court Arena was the first sport and entertainment arena in Australia to receive the certification. The two other major Australian Open facilities, the Rod Laver and Melbourne Arenas, are also on track to achieve LEED Gold certification. The LEED rating system is the program for buildings, homes and communities that are designed, maintained and operated for optimum environmental and human health performance. Certification is achieved by prioritising reductions in energy (and emissions), water and building materials consumption.

In order to address and manage heatwaves specifically, the three Australian Open arenas have retractable roofing and air conditioning. The retractable roof at Margaret Court Arena was introduced in 2015 and the unique roof coating is able to reflect over 70% of the sun’s heat which keeps the building cooler during extreme temperatures. The arena also has 3,200 metres of shade around the MCA concourse level to give fans some respite as they move about between games.

According to Sports Environment Alliance, some of the most notable energy focus points at the Melbourne Park Precinct include:

  • Specialised court lighting system that provides high quality energy efficient light Use of high-efficiency LED bulbs for all external lighting, as well as programmable lighting controls
  • Installation of onsite solar arrays, including a 42MWh/year system of 120 photovoltaic panels atop the National Tennis Centre within the Eastern Plaza
  • Use of high-efficiency HVAC systems and comprehensive commissioning of building systems to save energy, lower operating costs, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions

With some players enduring reflective court conditions north of 60°C, and others burning more than 2100 calories on average, an energy output of over 2.50kWh, we take our (wide brimmed) hats off to those incredible Australian Open athletes.

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