During Saltex 2022. Daryl headed over to the UK for a week and we did a round of tours at some fantastic venues, while there we talked all things staffing and the issues within the industry. Our final day saw us head to The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon, to meet Neil Stubley – Head of Courts and Horticulture, AELTC. Neil started in Groundsmanship in 1993 at Norwood Hall College, obtaining his National Diploma in Sports turf. In 2011, he obtained his Foundation Degree in Sports Turf Management and his BASIS pesticide advisory license.
In 1995, Neil started working at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon, as a Groundsman, and was promoted to Senior Groundsman in 2002. In 2012, he took over from then Head Groundsman Eddie Seaward. His role now sees him consulting with ATP, WTA, and LTA on playing surfaces as part of the grass-court season in the UK and overseas. In 2014, AELTC took the Horticulture in-house and this is now also under Neil’s control. Neil has seen Wimbledon evolve over the years. This year will mark Neils’s 28th year at Wimbledon, an impressive accolade and one which we see often within the turf management industry.
Neil took us for a tour of the whole site, from the center court to the brand-new indoor members-only courts. What an incredible facility this is, our pictures don’t do the place justice as they were mid-renovation. But you can be assured that this place is world-class. If you play tennis, the dream is to play here, that’s for sure. Neil oversees all playing surfaces: 46 Grass (including 4 stadiums), 8 Clay, 6 Acrylic (3 indoor), 3 Supreme (indoor), 2 Capet (indoor), and 2 Croquet Lawns, plus 42 acres of landscaped grounds. Some of the most notable are the green walls that grow up and around the center court and member areas.
Similar to our previous tours during the week, we got a sneak insight into the maintenance machines, with battery-powered powers and the well-laid-out infrastructure that they require to operate at such a standard efficiently. The Wimbledon venue is in close proximity to housing, and the site itself is compact with lots of closed structures within it, so switching over to a mower that produces extremely low levels of noise has been welcomed by all.
The Grounds are owned by The All England Lawn Tennis Ground Plc and consist of both the main site on Church Road, Wimbledon, and the All England Community Sports Ground (AECSG) in Raynes Park.
The main site comprises a total of 18 Championship Grass Courts (including Centre Court and No. 1 Court) and 14 Grass Practice Courts located in Aorangi Park. A further 6 Grass Practice Courts are available during The Championships which are located temporarily on the three Croquet Lawns to the North end of the site. There are also currently six American clay courts and two acrylic courts located at the Southern Apex of the Grounds. As a result of the ongoing Somerset Road project, a further 6 indoor acrylic courts, and 6 outdoor American clay courts have been opened at the end of 2021.
In addition, the AECSG (a 20-acre site acquired by the AELTC in 1990) provides further opportunity for grass court practice with 16 grass courts available alongside 6 indoor acrylic courts and 3 outdoor acrylic courts.
Apart from the grass courts, the courts are used all year round by the Club members and LTA-sponsored players. The grass courts are in play from May to September (except Centre Court and other Show Courts which are used only for The Championships). The courts are lent to a number of clubs and organisations, mainly of a national character, for the staging of various events.
The area north of the Centre Court became known as Aorangi Park after the Club purchased the 11 acres from John Barker Ltd. of Kensington in 1967 and subsequently granted a lease to the New Zealand Sports and Social Club. Aorangi, meaning ‘Cloud in the Sky’, is the Maori name for Mount Cook.