A Grand Slam in the making: breaking ground on the new Roland Garros

The French Open’s legendary tennis stadium gets a $400 million modern makeover, with the help of technical and regulatory oversight from Bureau Veritas.

Roland Garros, named after the respected aviator and home of the French Open, is a Parisian treasure. Its famous clay courts set the standard for those who “play on clay” so much so that top-tier clay courts around the world have come to be recognized as honorary “Roland Garros” clubs themselves.

The other three Grand Slam tournament courts - Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open - received upgrades in recent years. To remain a competitive host, Roland Garros invested in overhauling its infrastructure. The project, overseen by Bureau Veritas, aims to respect the tradition of the venerable stadium, without sacrificing the amenities expected by contemporary sports enthusiasts. Construction plans include expanding from 850 to 1,250 acres into the neighboring botanical garden, adding an extra 2,500 seats and installing a retractable roof.

The new retractable roof can fully open or close over the Philippe-Chatrier court in 15 minutes. This will allow matches to continue in inclement weather.

Complete with lighting equipment for night games and spanning 330 feet, the retractable roof posed logistical challenges. Structures to buttress the massive roof could not be on the courts, where they would obstruct play.

According to Thierry Lamadon, Technical Director of Bureau Veritas Construction, the company overseeing technical control of the Roland Garros project: “It is obviously not possible to plant poles in the middle of the court. The project participants must therefore ensure the stability of the works with little support.”

Furthermore, to compensate for the weight of the new roof - which is several thousand tons - the courts’ foundations required strengthening. Temperature fluctuations, which could lead to the expansion or contraction of building materials, as well as variations in wind speed could affect design, construction and visitor safety. "Gusts must not generate unpleasant vibrations for the spectators, as has been seen elsewhere" said Philippe Hostalery, Project Manager at Bureau Veritas Construction.

"For the roof to unfold properly” commented Hassan Mirdas, Head of Activity at Bureau Veritas Construction, “all the mechanisms must work together.”

If all goes according to plan, 2019 will mark the last French Open at Roland Garros without a retractable roof.