Mayor addresses Roland Garros plans

PARIS -- By 2016, Roland Garros will feature a refurbished center court with a retractable roof, allowing French Open action during rain and at night.

Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe made a point Saturday of dismissing fears that the estimated $390 million project will damage a nearby botanical garden.

In February, 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 said at a news conference Saturday, a day before this year's second Grand Slam tournament begins. "This botanical garden will be totally preserved."

The botanical garden's 19th-century greenhouses, located just a few hundred meters from the main court, host a large variety of tropical and local flowers.

Delanoe's staff said only the greenhouses with no historic value 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 in the Serres d'Auteuil will be relocated to other Parisian parks and gardens.

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 to 33.8 acres.

The French Open has been at Roland Garros since 1928 and the federation has a contract there until 2015. Players and spectators occasionally have 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.

Among the changes will be a new court with a seating capacity of 2,000 and the use of land at Stade Jean Bouin as training courts for players during the tournament.