Celebrities such as Piers Morgan and nearly 800 other members of a London golf club will earn £85,000 ($107,100) each after agreeing the sale of their Wimbledon Park Golf Club to the organizer of the Wimbledon grand slam tennis tournament.
The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) has acquired the land, which lies across the road from the tournament venue, for £65 million ($81.9 million) with a long-term view to transferring Wimbledon's qualifying event to the 73-acre site and building over the golf greens.
Grand Slam Tournaments
Sports and recreation
The two parties have been in discussion for a decade but members of the 120-year-old golf club had resisted a number of lower bids before 82% agreed to Wimbledon's "best and final offer" at a meeting in central London Thursday.
Journalist and TV star Morgan tweeted: "Very sad news. Played there for over 30yrs & voted against the sale. Hope the superb pro-shop team get properly looked after."
Wimbledon tennis organizers are seeking to keep pace with modernization and the development of world-class facilities for players and fans at the other three grand slams in Australia, France and USA. Qualifying currently takes place at Roehampton, about a 15-minute drive away.
"The decision of the Wimbledon Park Golf Club members to vote in favor of the acquisition offer is a hugely significant moment for the AELTC and The Championships," said Philip Brook, chairman of the AELTC.
'Protect and celebrate heritage'
Another longtime member Martin Sumpton told the meeting it was a "very, very sad day for the history of golf and the future of Wimbledon Park."
"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.
"It's not just the golf club that will be lost, but also all the employees who will be out of a job through no fault of their own."
The golf club will continue as normal until the end of 2021 with nine or 10-holes operating for at least a further year. In the meantime, the AELTC will formulate its master plan for the site, which will also seek to "protect and celebrate the heritage of the park" and offer "increased public access." A sports club situated in the center of the golf course is not included in the sale.
"We have achieved what we set out to do many months ago in having certainty in our planning for the future," added Brook, who clarified that the grounds would remain a sporting facility.
"I would like to emphasize that we have no intention of applying for change of use, planning permission or other approval to use the land that would be completely out of character for the AELTC and The Championships."
Wimbledon built a retractable roof over Centre Court at a reported cost of £100 million ($126 million) in 2009 and is in the process of adding a £71 million ($90 million) roof on No.1 court for the 2019 event.
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