In court construction, expect more surface changes, courts specifically for beginning players, and “green” tennis facilities.
Extended life will be a recurrent theme in tennis court construction and rehab in 2008. In this case, “extended life” has nothing to do with battery power for those iPods that more and more players are bringing on court. In terms of court construction, “extended life” is about keeping players healthy and keeping them in the game for the long run — hopefully for the rest of their lives.
“I think the biggest trend is the desire of players to find softer, gentler surfaces to play on,” says Randy Futty of Lee Tennis Products in Charlottesville, Va., which produces the Har-Tru surface. “Baby-boomers are driving the growth in tennis, and to keep this group of passionate players playing more hours each week, and for more years of their lives, facilities of all types and sizes simply must look for softer surfaces for their members and leagues to play on.”
The wish to seek more forgiving surfaces has led some clubs to install cushioned hard courts, and others to look into resurfacing their hard courts to make them a bit slower, leading to a game based more on strategy. A hard court is called a fast court because of the way the ball bounces on it; the harder the surface, the higher and faster the ball will bounce when it hits that surface. Changing the texture of the surface, even slightly, by making it rougher through additives to the color coat can help “grab” the ball and slow it down. The rougher the texture, the more the surface will grip and slow the ball and the more effect will be evident from spin placed on the ball.
Look for more club owners to be eyeballing these kinds of changes in the interest of catering to an aging baby-boomer player population. However, it’s important to note that plenty of players still love their hard, fast courts, so don’t be too quick to tear out or resurface. In fact, you may want to poll your membership from time to time to see what they’d like.
Courts for Beginners
What else is new? How about a special court for beginners? New players are enthusiastic, but they’re also self-conscious, and never more so than when they try to practice in a bank of courts, flanked by seasoned members.
As more people enter the game, some facilities are giving their newbies a place to call their own — a fenced-in, wind-screened area where they can practice forehands, backhands and serves. Give them a ball machine and a welcoming attitude, and they’ll thank you by coming back, patronizing your pro shop and maybe bringing other newcomers to the game.
Also, in March the industry will officially launch QuickStart Tennis, a new play format designed to help get more children ages 10 and under into the game. QST uses court dimensions, equipment and scoring all tailored to the age and size of the kids, and key to this is the different size courts: 36- by 18-foot courts for younger ages and 60- by 21-foot courts for older kids. Some facilities have been building and permanently lining these courts to cater to the many kids joining the game through QST.
The ‘Green’ Revolution
Another trend you’ll be seeing are “green” tennis facilities — that is, sustainable building with locally available materials and landscaping with native plants. Also, measures like water conservation and energy-efficient resources will be more important this year and in years to come. And expect to see the Earth-friendly vibe in new lighting systems.
You’ll be hearing more about sustainable buildings that use renewable resources and recycled materials. For now, though, spend some time making your facility more earth-friendly. Put out designated recycling containers and encourage your members to donate used tennis balls.
What else is new? Alternatives to tradition. For instance, fencing is no longer just metal — there are a variety of options now. There are also designs for fencing that use less fabric but still allow balls to remain on the court — fencing at the corners and backs of courts, for example, with lower rails between each court that give the feeling of open space.
Some court builders are commenting on the continuing impact that the US Open court color change has had on the market. Both public and private customers are requesting the blue/green combination when resurfacing courts. This started happening at the end of 2005, shortly after US Open officials announced they were changing the court color scheme at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
There is a lot to look forward to in court construction, including keeping your longtime players healthy and your beginners happy. Then, you can enjoy a great future.
Expect more energy-efficient lighting, more use of lower fences between courts and more programs for beginners, such as the QuickStart Tennis clinic (right) that was held in Concord, N.C., by the Concord Tennis Association and pro Chad Oxendine.
See all articles by Mary Helen Sprecher
About the Author
Mary Helen Sprecher is the managing editor of Sports Destinations Management Magazine, a niche business-to-business publication for planners of sports travel events, in addition to being an RSI Contributing Editor. She is the technical writer for the American Sports Builders Association and works as a newspaper reporter in Baltimore City.