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Wimbledon set to expand after golf agrees to sell

Wimbledon set to expand after golf agrees to sell
FILE PHOTO: Tennis - Wimbledon Preview - All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, London, Britain - July 2, 2018 Ground staff prepare. REUTERS/Andrew Couldridge/File Photo -
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LONDON (Reuters) - Wimbledon's plans to expand the size of its grounds took a step forward on Thursday when members of a local golf club voted to sell their land to the Grand Slam tournament's organisers.

The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) had made a 63.75 million pounds offer, according to British media reports, to buy out early the lease of the adjacent Wimbledon Park Golf Club.

The AELTC said in a statement on Thursday that members of the 120-year-old golf club had voted in favour of the offer and the deal, which would see Wimbledon almost triple the size of its grounds, would go through on Dec. 21 pending court approval.

"The decision of the Wimbledon Park Golf Club members to vote in favour of the acquisition offer is a hugely significant moment for the AELTC and The Championships," AELTC chairman Philip Brook said.

In 2013 the AELTC rolled out a Wimbledon Master Plan aimed at making sure the grasscourt Grand Slam kept pace with its rivals -- the Australian Open, French Open and U.S. Open -- in terms of facilities and crowd experience.

Part of that was to construct a roof over Court One which will be completed in time for the 2019 Championships.

The acquisition of the golf course, which will continue to operate 18 holes until the end of 2021, will eventually allow the Wimbledon qualifying tournament to be staged on site.

Currently it is held a few miles away in Roehampton.

Wimbledon's planned expansion across the road on to the course has received criticism, but the AELTC ruled out any development that did not "protect and celebrate the heritage of the park."

"For the avoidance of doubt, there never has been and never will be any plans to build multi-storey car parks and shopping villages or any other structures that would be completely out of character for the AELTC and The Championships," the AELTC said.

Media reports say the golf club's 754 members will receive 85,000 pounds each in compensation.

One member, Martin Sumpton, was one of the minority of members to speak out against the sale.

"120 years of playing golf at Wimbledon Park has ended because of greed," he told the Guardian.

"People wanted to take the money, and that's hardly surprising. It is a lot of money."

Jenny Gaskin, chair of Wimbledon Park Golf Club, said: "This has been a long but thorough process and I and the rest of the board would like to thank all members who participated in and voted either in person or by proxy."

(Reporting by Toby Davis; editing by Martyn Herman)

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