Queensland’s new $82 million tennis centre has been named after local hero and two-time US Open champion Pat Rafter.
The centrepiece of the new home of tennis in Queensland was today crowned ‘Rafter Arena’ in honour of the Queensland tennis champion.
The two time US Open winner and former world No.1 today joined Premier Anna Bligh, Sport Minister Judy Spence and Tennis Queensland CEO Tom Larner to unveil the name of the 5,500 seat centre court stadium at the soon-to-be-completed Queensland Tennis Centre.
Ms Bligh said: “Pat is an iconic Queenslander whose contribution to the game both on and off the court has inspired a generation of tennis players.
“The name ‘Rafter’ is synonymous with tennis, not only in Queensland but throughout the world. It is fitting that the new centre court arena of this world-class facility is to be named after a home grown champion like Pat.
“Pat claimed his place among the great players in Queensland’s proud tennis history with his first Grand Slam win at the 1997 US Open. He then successfully defended his title the following year.
“For a boy born in Mount Isa in outback Queensland to go on to win back-to-back Grand Slam titles shows the fighting spirit and determination that Queenslanders are famous for.
“The name ‘Rafter Arena’ will put the Queensland Tennis Centre on the world stage,” Ms Bligh said.
Sport Minister Judy Spence said the $82 million Queensland Tennis Centre was on track to be completed in time for its first major tournament, the 2009 Brisbane International men’s and women’s hardcourt championships beginning on 4 January.
“This will be the first international tournament to be played in Brisbane since 1994 and we expect tennis-starved fans will flock to the tournament to watch matches in one of the best tennis facilities in Australia,” Ms Spence said.
“The centre is attracting some of the world’s leading players with the likes of Marcos Baghdatis, Novak Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic already confirmed for the January tournament.
“The combination of this world class facility and a major tournament will surely re-invigorate tennis in Queensland.
Ms Spence said construction of the Tennis Centre was on target for completion in December this year.
“A major milestone for the project has been the recent installation of the curved roof structure and fabric cover. People can now start to get a real sense of the atmosphere that will be generated here during major tournaments.”
The Queensland Tennis Centre will provide 23 international standard courts including clay, grass, and hardcourt surfaces – the first in Australia to be built with all three Grand Slam surfaces.
“Inside Rafter Arena will be seating for 5,500 spectators as well as 20 corporate suites, several function spaces, a memorabilia area, and a players’ gymnasium. It will also house the offices of Tennis Queensland,” Ms Spence said.
“The Queensland Tennis Centre will provide a huge boost to Tennis in Queensland and highlights the State Government’s commitment to improving our sporting and recreation infrastructure.”