For almost two decades the Australian Open has been generating record crowds at Melbourne Park.
It hasn’t always been this way.
Before 1988 the Grand Slam of Asia-Pacific was held at the Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club. From Rod Laver to John McEnroe and Evonne Goolagong to Martina Navratilova, Kooyong witnessed some of the greatest moments in tennis history.
But as good as the facilities and courts were, it just couldn’t keep pace with the growth of the event. So, in 1988, the Australian Open moved to a new $94 million precinct called Flinders Park (which in 1996 was re-named to Melbourne Park by the Victorian Government).
The state of the art tennis centre was an immediate smash hit with players and fans alike, and earned rave reviews from the Australian media. “The National Tennis Centre is a triumph,” wrote The Age journalist Tim Colebatch on January 12, 1988.
“Its first day of business yesterday left the spectators, players, officials and observers of the tennis world wandering through it in a state of wonder at the scale, beauty and excellence of the facilities.”
The success of the move was also in the numbers; in its first year at Melbourne Park attendance rose from 140,000 to 266,436 - an increase of 90 per cent. And it is still growing today. With numerous courts, training facilities, stadiums, bars, big screens and live music areas built since its inauguration. The Australian Open and Melbourne Park surpassed 500,000 fans in its first week of 2017, beating the previous record of 496,859 in 2016.