For two weeks every summer, the manicured courts of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club are ubiquitous on television every morning for American sports fans. Even if you don’t particularly care about tennis or have just glanced at the tournament in passing on ESPN, there’s only one place in the world that looks like Wimbledon.
But what makes that particular event such a standout on the sports calendar is also what makes it extremely difficult to move — and why it may end up being canceled altogether within the next week due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wimbledon’s courts are built from perennial ryegrass cut to 8 millimeters that, according to the club, requires 13 days of hard and dry soil underneath to play properly without incurring any damage. But even before that, it takes 15 months for the courts to be seeded and cut and installed to perfection. And given the weather patterns in England, the season to have a championship-quality grass court is relatively short, with members being able to play the regular courts from May to September.
It is truly a living, breathing, fragile surface, and the…