Australia’s first cable-tension stadium roof at Ken Rosewall Arena; Australia’s first cable-tension stadium roof at Ken Rosewall Arena;

Ken Rosewall Arena Sydney, Sydney Olympic Park

New canopy roof transforms Olympic Sydney tennis venue

The Ken Rosewall Arena at the Sydney Olympic Tennis Centre has been given a new roof in time for the inaugural 2020 ATP Cup. The stadium was originally purpose-built for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. 

Our integrated design team conceived and developed the concept, design and delivery of the canopy roof for Tennis NSW, funded by the NSW Government. The tensile steel and fabric roof, of approximately 8,000 m2, provides full cover over centre court allowing play during all-weather events improving conditions for players and spectators. It replaced the original perimeter-only roof.

Our team of engineers and specialists represented more than 15 disciplines, working in three Australian offices concurrently on the design. We delivered all structural and building services and structural designs within a 3D digital environment, increasing efficiencies for delivery, design reviews and ongoing updates. 

We collaborated with Cox Architecture and Fabritecture on the upgrade – completed in less than 12-months, from concept to completion. A W Edwards was the managing contractor.

Project Summary


15+ disciplines

12monthsproject lifecycle

100mspan canopy

Aerial view of Ken Rosewall Arena's new canopy roof Aerial view of Ken Rosewall Arena's new canopy roof

Australia’s first cable-tension stadium roof

Our structural engineers conceived and designed a solution that enclosed the stadium while maintaining the integrity of the original design, engineered by Arup in 1998. 

It utilised the circular form of the existing stadium, cleverly re-provisioning the support (provided by the existing perimeter roof structure) to the rear of the seating bowl via the structural system of the new roof.

This required a simple sequence of construction to “trick” the existing raking beam that nothing was changing. The result is an example of sustainable, structural-led repurposing and reconfiguration.

The lightweight, self-resolving cable tension roof minimised the need for strengthening the existing supporting frame, as the forces in the roof were not transferred to the bowl.  

Therefore, no new foundations or foundation modifications were required. Due to the project’s short time frame, wire ropes and fabric were pre-ordered directly from the concept design. 

The roof geometry was form-found by Arup (the steel cables form the shape of the roof enabling it to support itself). The fabrication geometry and installation prestress (for the cables) was provided to the fabricator digitally, with no paper structural drawings delivered.

This is an engineering-led project; from conceiving the solution through to design delivery, fabrication, and erection. The result is an extremely elegant and sustainable solution that brings new life to an existing asset and delivers value to our client, their stakeholders and the public. ” Andrew Johnson Andrew Johnson Project Director

The connections were fully designed and detailed by Arup in 3D and provided to the shop detailer to complete the fabrication model. The shop detailer worked in Arup’s Sydney office, alongside our team, to streamline this process from design to fabrication.

A simple solution of new vertical steel bracing using Macalloy bars was applied to the bowl structure, bringing seismic performance of the stadium up to current code provisions.

Natural ventilation allows year-round use and comfort

Through detailed CFD analysis, our environmental engineers designed and demonstrated an economical system to maintain a suitable occupiable environment underneath its new tent-like roof, protecting both players and spectators from the sun. This included a series of four-metre tall folding doors, located at the back of the bowl around the full perimeter, to assist the natural ventilation strategy of introducing fresh cool air into the venue and removing hot air through the centre oculus of the roof.


This strategy also provides smoke exhaust during fire alarm mode when the doors are in the closed position.  

In extreme heat conditions, the arena can accommodate temporary air-conditioning units positioned around centre court keeping players cool, while spectators are cooled with permanent ‘impulse’ drum fans located underneath the fabric roof.

For Tennis NSW and its spectators, the closed-in arena needed to evoke the sense of being an outdoor venue. A translucent PTFE fabric allows controlled natural light into the indoor venue, lighting the internal space. The four-metre perimeter doors can open to reveal the sky line – visible from centre court and the stands, reinforcing the sensation of being in an open-roofed venue.

When the roof-top doors are closed, the arena is transformed into a comfortable, world-class venue suitable for Netball NSW’s professional lines, NSW Swifts and GIANTS Netball, who will call the arena home from 2020. 

One-year project possible through digital design 

Through significant analysis and planning, the team determined a workflow that would ensure project delivery. 

Our multidisciplinary team used advanced application of digital tools (Rhino, Grasshopper, Geometry Gym and GSA) to complete the structural detailed design within three months to allow maximum time for construction. Engineering the canopy was complex – the tension roof had to retrofit to the stadium’s circumference and existing services. 

The designs were kept solely within a secure 3D environment. Automation and parametric modelling hastened design reviews and alterations. The digital collaboration with designers, architects, contractors and builders supported a comprehensive workflow which saw the roof completed on time.

Our multidiscipline engineering team strived to maintain the integrity of the original Sulman award-winning arena through collaborative working design solutions. The result is an attractive, sustainable and functional landmark building which the whole team is proud of. ” Engineer Jake Cherniayeff Jake Cherniayeff Senior Building Services Engineer, Arup

Fire safety at the arena

The change from open arena to semi-enclosed and enclosed venue was a significant structural alteration that needed to be assessed by our fire engineers to identify potential hazards. 

Through a combination of analysis and strategic placement of smoke separation, it was found that the natural ventilation strategy would clear smoke from the venue with no need for bulky smoke exhaust systems. In addition, detailed assessment of the steel frame’s response to fire highlighted that fire protection to the steel structure would not be necessary. 


The fire engineering team worked closely with our structural, fire services, lighting and mechanical engineers to reduce the visual impact of installed safety devices and fittings and minimise the impact of fire safety upgrades. 

This fulfilled the architectural brief to deliver an extensive upgrade to Ken Rosewall Arena without altering the structural form while gaining approvals in compressed timeframes through a robust and detailed fire strategy.

The original Ken Rosewall Arena, designed by Lawrence Neild & Partners (now BVN) in association with BDP, was awarded the 2000 Sir John Sulman Medal for Architectural Excellence.  We are proud of this addition and believe it will contribute to both the ongoing usefulness and legacy of the venue for the public.