Serving an Arena Ace

Thirty years after Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena first opened, the iconic sports and entertainment complex is undergoing a major refurbishment as part of a wider $700 million Melbourne Park redevelopment project.

To cater for the future growth of the popular Australian Open tennis tournament, Melbourne Park has been under redevelopment for a number of years as it seeks to improve the comfort and amenity of patrons attending the precinct.

While Stage 1, completed in 2013, focused primarily on the redevelopment of Margaret Court Arena and the construction of Eastern Plaza and the National Tennis Centre, the $338 million second stage of works includes a significant refurbishment of Rod Laver Arena.

As the largest spectator venue at Melbourne Park with seating for 14,820 people, this is the first major construction work to take place on Rod Laver Arena since it opened in 1988.

Constructed by Lendlease, the refurbishment will enhance the venue’s amenity, food service, patron comfort, and accessibility.

This is being achieved through the construction of an eastern-facing annex that will create a new, primary entrance to the arena as well as accommodate new food and beverage offerings and visitor restrooms. Additionally, the existing internal concourse of the arena is being expanded to allow for improved patron movement and increase disability access.

Behind the scenes, significant back-of-house improvements have also been made, including a larger loading bay and increased rigging capacity to allow for more – and bigger – concerts and shows to be hosted at the arena.

As part of the arena’s multi-million dollar refurbishment by Development Victoria, A.G. Coombs was appointed by Lendlease as mechanical contractor, with a scope of works including the provision of HVAC and mechanical services to both new and existing infrastructure.

Having previously been involved in the redevelopment of the adjacent Margaret Court Arena, A.G. Coombs’ familiarity with the shared services on the site has proven advantageous.

The refurbishment of Rod Laver Arena commenced immediately following the completion of the 2016 Australian Open.

A tight completion timeframe has demanded that demolition, construction and reconstruction works be completed concurrently onsite. Outside of two blackout periods, works have had to be carried out while the arena has remained operational.

From a mechanical services perspective, this has required careful pre-planning and procurement on the part of A.G. Coombs, which led the services coordination with the extensive use of BIM (building information modelling) on the project.

With the project aiming to achieve a Gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification upon completion, A.G. Coombs has provided practical solutions to overcome the constraints of as-built conditions and demonstrated its technical ability to blend new technology with existing systems.

This has included the addition of new high efficiency IE3 motors and variable speed drives on existing equipment to improve the energy efficiency of the plant, and re-birthing the arena’s building management and control system (BMCS) to provide better functionality and control.

The addition of a new, high efficiency water-cooled chiller to the existing central chiller plant serving Rod Laver Arena will cater for the additional spaces in the facility, while upgrades to air handling units and existing fan systems have also been made to improve energy efficiency and performance.

To reduce onsite construction work, and overcome some of the site’s access limitations, offsite prefabrication techniques have also been used for piping systems, valve assemblies and air handling units.

“Our own construction expertise combined with A.G. Coombs’ technical expertise in mechanical services will ensure that patrons to Rod Laver Arena enjoy a modern, enhanced experience when attending events well into the future.” 

Andrew Staedler, Project Director, Lendlease

Fire and life safety systems have also been upgraded in the arena to comply with current building codes. These include changes to existing ventilation and smoke spill rates and a complex arrangement of smoke and fire zones with compartment control.

These changes will ensure the arena continues to operate as a world-class venue, as it has for the past 30 years.

“Rod Laver Arena has been an iconic venue in world sport for 30 years, and we are delighted to be working with Development Victoria to enhance its reputation with this refurbishment,” said Andrew Staedler, Project Director with Lendlease.

“Our own construction expertise combined with A.G. Coombs’ technical expertise in mechanical services will ensure that patrons to Rod Laver Arena enjoy a modern, enhanced experience when attending events well into the future.”

The refurbishment of Rod Laver Arena is expected to be completed by October 2019, in preparation for the 2020 Australian Open.

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