Mayor calms concerns over Roland Garros facelift
Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe dismissed fears on Saturday that the planned renovation of Roland Garros will damage a nearby botanical garden.
Earlier this year, the French Tennis Federation voted to keep the French Open at Roland Garros and renovate the existing site, rather than moving it elsewhere.
Environmental groups and local residents claim that the construction of a new 5,000-seat court at the Serres d'Auteuil botanical garden will harm the vegetation and flowers.
''I can tell you we will not destroy one single plant or one single flower,'' Delanoe told a press conference. ''This botanical garden will be totally preserved.''
By 2016 the new-look Roland Garros will feature 35 outside courts, a new press center and a center court with a retractable roof - allowing matches during bad weather and at night. Construction and refurbishment work will cost an estimated ?275 million ($392 million).
The botanical garden's 19th century greenhouses, located just a few hundred meters from the Center court, host a large variety of tropical and local flowers.
Delanoe's staff said only the greenhouses with no historic value - some of them made out of plastic - will be removed to facilitate construction work.
''In Paris, we have one of the strictest ecological plans and we will abide by environment-related requirements,'' Delanoe said, adding that some of the flowers currently in the Serres d'Auteuil will be relocated in other Parisian parks and gardens.
''I would never have accepted to spoil this site,'' Delanoe said. ''I would like to tell you that everything that is beautiful already here in this site will be made even more beautiful. The ugly parts will be removed. I can tell you that Roland Garros of 2016 will be more beautiful than the Roland Garros of 2010.''
Roland Garros is the smallest of the four Grand Slam venues that also include the Australian Open at Melbourne, the U.S. Open at Flushing Meadows in New York, and London's traditional grass-court event at Wimbledon.
Plans call for an extension of the current site from 21.3 acres (8.6 hectares) to about 33.8 acres (13.7 hectares).
The French Open has been at Roland Garros since 1928 and the federation has a contract there till 2015. Players, journalists and spectators have occasionally complained about the limited size of the complex.
''We don't necessarily want more people to come to Roland Garros, we just want people to feel good when they are at the French Open,'' tournament director Gilbert Ysern said.
Renovation options include a new court with a capacity of 2,000 and using land at Stade Jean Bouin as training courts for players during the tournament.