Tennis Industry magazine

 

Classic Turf Has Been Quietly Maturing Over the Year

By Peter Francesconi

Turner Eren of Classic Turf

What would compel a man to turn down a very generous offer from a major company looking to buy his new product? For Tumer H. Eren, it was because he felt he had more work to do in perfecting that product.

In this case, the product is Classic Turf, an all-weather, cushioned court surface that Eren developed after years in the business as a court builder and avid player. About 10 years ago, a large international company was so excited by Eren’s Classic Turf that they offered to buy him out.

“My feeling was that the baby was just born, and I still felt I had much work to do on it,” Eren says. “And I didn’t really want to sell my own child.” Since then, Eren has nurtured and improved his “baby,” Installing courts throughout the U.S. and Mexico.

Classic Turf — and its sister product, Classic Cushion — are indoor/outdoor cushioned sport surfaces made of prefabricated, recycled rubber that are coated and protected with a specially designed, highly flexible, acrylic color coating system. The difference between Classic Turf and Classic Cushion is that Classic Turf is glued to the existing surface, which can be a variety of bases, including asphalt, concrete or wood. Classic Cushion, which Eren says is ideal for renovating old and damaged asphalt and indoor concrete surfaces, is designed as a free-floating system.

The key to the Classic Turf system, says Eren, is that the surface is waterproof, yet it also can “breathe,” allowing moisture vapor to escape. That, he says, makes it ideal as a cushioned surface over a concrete base. “It’s like an egg,” he says. “Water doesn’t get through the eggshell, but the chick inside needs to breathe. With Classic Turf, water can’t go through it, but the moisture vapor can go out.”

This aspect of the product means that it actually protects the surface upon which it is laid, says Eren. In fact, it’s this waterproofing ability of Classic Turf that has caught the eye of many facilities looking to put a sports surface on top of a building or parking garage.

Fixing the Same Problems

Eren started building courts in 1980, but he says he quickly became “tired of fixing asphalt courts that would crack six months later.” For residential court owners, one of the major problems he found was that to fix the courts right, it often required tearing up expensive landscaping. And even then, the repairs didn’t last.

He called a major asphalt company to try to understand why the asphalt cracked and was told that temperature changes were the cause. “They said that normally, unprotected asphalt in New England will crack starting from the top in three to five years,” Eren says. “Hard-court asphalt will crack between five and 10 years, always. My own asphalt court at my home cracked exactly at 10 years, and I thought I had done an excellent job installing it.

“I found it hard to believe that in this day and age, we couldn’t put in a tennis court that would last,” Eren says. “I kept fixing the same courts year after year. I felt I had two choices: get out of the business or come up with a solution. Then, in 1984, I began to think that if I could coat some rubber with water-based acrylic, I’d have a winner.”

Over the next eight years, after much trial and error with different glues and acrylics, the Classic Turf system was born. The prefabricated rubber Eren uses is made from the highly desirable “buffing rubber” of truck tires and is delivered to the Classic Turf headquarters in Woodbury, Conn., in 4-foot-wide rolls, in thicknesses from 4 mm to 12 mm, depending on the court characteristics the customer is seeking. (Eren says that one tennis court using an 8-mm-thick rubber pad will use the rubber from 400 tires.)

From 1993 to 1997, Eren manually installed his system entirely on-site, spreading glue on the subsurface, rolling out the rubber, adding adhesive, a layer of silica sand, then three acrylic polymer coatings. “It was a difficult, labor-intensive, expensive process, and you couldn”t control the weather,” he says.

Controlling the Conditions

In 1997, Eren started prefabricating the rubber, adhesive and silica sand “grip” layer in his factory, creating equipment to do the job quickly and, more importantly, under controlled conditions. Now, the prefab rolled rubber is delivered to the site, laid out on the court (using manual machines that Eren designed, which cut the time to minutes), glued together, then coated with the acrylic polymer system. Playing speed of the court can be adjusted with the acrylic top coats. Eren says he perfected the last part of the process in 2002 when he found the right glue to join the rolled sections of prefab rubber. “Over 14 years, I tested 80 or 90 different sealers before I found one that worked properly,” he says. The sealer he uses moves with the rubber after it cures and has the properties of the rubber when it comes to adding the acrylic coatings on top of it.

With normal court maintenance and resurfacing the top two coats every five years, Eren says he guarantees the Classic Turf surface against peeling, cracking and delamination from the surface for 25 years. He adds that because the whole system uses only 10 percent polyurethane by weight, the surface doesn”t get sticky in extremely hot weather, which has been a complaint against rubberized surfaces in the past.

Eren, who plays tennis two to three times a week on his own Classic Turf court, says that he’ll call clients to make sure they’re satisfied, or he’ll stop by to visit his installations whenever he’s traveling. “I take a quick look at my tennis courts to make sure there are no problems,” he says, adding that courts he built 11 years ago “don’t have a scratch on them.”

After spending so much time nurturing his “baby,” Eren says he’s happy to see that it’s behaving exactly the way it should behave — as a “cost-effective, soft, comfortable, long-lasting court surface.”

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About the Author

Peter Francesconi is editorial director of RSI magazine.

 

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