Tennis Industry magazine


Inside Information

Maintain your indoor courts properly and you’ll ensure that players will keep coming back.

By Mary Helen Sprecher

Maintain your indoor courts properly and you’ll ensure that players will keep coming back.

Indoor courts can be the solution to an armload of problems. They provide year-round play and allow for ease of programming. They also offer a controlled environment — something that really makes them popular with players.

So what’s the best way to ensure that the environment stays pleasant? Upkeep, say court builders and suppliers. Regular facility care ensures a good place to play, and keeps players coming back. Whether the courts are housed in an air structure (or “bubble”), a fabric-frame structure or a steel building, a regimen is needed.

indoor courts

Overall Maintenance

“Good maintenance is vital,” says Steve Wright of Trans Texas Tennis in Houston. “There should be clean courts, a clean clubhouse and locker rooms, well-lit with updated furnishings, and no trash, towels or empty cans laying around.”

Wright cautions managers not to neglect simple cosmetic problems. Replacing burned-out light bulbs immediately, as well as keeping nets, posts, backdrop curtains and divider nets in top shape, all contribute to a facility that commands respect. Backdrops and divider curtains should be kept off the floor and attached to support cables at every grommet. In addition, he notes, “clean and well-lit walkways behind the backdrop curtains are a must.”

Because the facility is not exposed to rain or wind, the surfaces of hard courts require periodic cleaning. “Indoor courts, whether permanent or portable, should be easy to clean, letting players know they are practicing or competing on a well-maintained surface,” notes Robin Traum of Gerflor, S.A., in Tarare, France.

indoor courts


Indoor courts need uniform, glare-free lighting, according to the American Sports Builders Association. In its book, “Tennis Courts: A Construction and Maintenance Manual,” the association notes that all lighting systems should be designed to provide adequate visibility of the ball along every possible path while in play, for both players and spectators.

Different levels of lighting are required, depending upon the level of play. For example, a facility that hosts professional play on an international level will need a higher level of lighting than a tennis club, which in turn requires more light than will a recreational facility. (A tennis court builder who specializes in indoor courts will be able to provide recommendations as to what lighting system is best, given the level of play expected).

Older players generally require more light; therefore, clubs whose membership includes a large percentage of middle-aged or senior players may want to investigate higher levels of lights than, for example, a facility that hosts more teen tennis camps or children’s programs.

The most common type of lighting for indoor tennis is indirect lighting, or uplighting, defined as the installation of fixtures aimed at a highly reflective ceiling. Uplighting uses metal halide or other high-intensity lamps mounted at least 6 feet from the ceiling to avoid so-called “hot spots.” Obviously, placement of lighting fixtures should be such that players do not have to look directly into the lights when serving or playing a high shot. If choosing or replacing a lighting system, get one that lends itself to regular cleaning and maintenance. A lighting contractor can provide guidance.

HVAC Systems

The heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system of a building plays a huge role in the comfort of players, say builders. “Humidity control is extremely important in indoor facilities, especially if there is a pool or hot tub area,” says Wright. “Nothing is more distracting than walking into a club and immediately smelling chlorine and feeling the humidity.” (High humidity, he notes, leads to rust, which in turn necessitates more maintenance.)

According to the ASBA’s “Tennis Courts” book, an HVAC system for an indoor tennis enclosure should be capable of changing the air within the structure one to four times per hour with minimal noise or draft. In the winter, the heating system should be able to maintain the building temperature at between 55 and 62 degrees Fahrenheit. In the summer, air conditioning should maintain an indoor temperature of 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit below the outside temperature, with 55 percent to 60 percent humidity.

Low-intensity gas-fired infrared heating systems that are completely sealed and exhaust to the outside can be used for indoor tennis structures with hard courts, and can heat the enclosure without using ductwork, fans or blowers. However, they are not for use in buildings with granular surface courts, since they will cause uneven heating and drying of the surface material in places. Unit heaters (which use forced air) can be used for buildings with either hard or clay courts. Combined heating and air conditioning units, mounted outside the building, with air brought in via ductwork, are also used.

“If you have indoor clay courts, one of the key factors both for comfort and for consistent maintenance is tied to humidity control through a good HVAC system,” notes John Welborn of Lee Tennis Court Products in Charlottesville, Va. (Recent developments in court surface systems have resulted in products that can give indoor courts a clay-like feel without, according to manufacturers, the maintenance worries of the authentic surface).

Regardless of the surface, the comfort of the player must be paramount, says Wright, who notes, “Air movement in the court area is important and can be done through ceiling fans, ventilation/exhaust fans, or running the A/C on blower setting.”

What Else?

Sometimes, though, the very fact that the indoor court environment is unchanging can be a problem, say some industry professionals. In those cases, it’s important to mix things up occasionally.

“Sometimes just changing the court colors can bring new energy to a club,” says Tom Magner of DecoTurf in Andover, Mass. “It can be, ‘The new blue-and-green courts make it easier to see the ball’ that makes a difference. A club may not be in a position to build new courts or get new lighting, but by simply changing the inbounds to blue, for example, they can show their existing members that the club is still fresh.”

Art Tucker of Plexipave System, a division of California Products Corp. in Andover, Mass., agrees: “Many players will not recognize anything was done if you use the same color at resurfacing.” Other changes can add variety to specific courts, he notes, including the installation of cushion to existing courts to address the needs of older players or others who want more comfortable courts. A surface that changes the speed of play, using the International Tennis Federation’s new pace standards, also creates new interest.

Encouraging members to vote on a new surface or a new color can generate excitement and a feeling of ownership, say both Tucker and Magner. Ultimately, it furthers the goal — to encourage players to go play inside.

See all articles by

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.



TI magazine search

TI magazine categories

TI magazine archives


Movable Type Development by PRO IT Service