Maintaining your maintenance equipment is easy to do, and equipment is easy to do, and can save you from small can save you from small expenses that can add up.
Big-ticket items get all the attention when it comes to your tennis facility. Resurfacing a court, putting in a new fence, upgrading the lighting — you can do painstaking planning and oversight to keep those within budget. Then there are the nickel-and-dime items that throw things completely out of whack. You suddenly need two new line sweepers. The pole keeps detaching from the head of the squeegee. Oh, and your maintenance crew just informed you that a lot of the tools they regularly use are getting rusty. Small expenses can knock your bottom line for a loop. The irony is that with all the maintenance you do to keep your courts in good repair, it’s sometimes the maintenance equipment itself that suffers. And why? Because it’s not maintained. According to court contractors and suppliers of materials, preventive measures can be taken in order to make court equipment last longer. Some actions might seem self-evident; others less so. But all can help save dollars here and there.
Hang Them Up
Hang up line sweepers and push brooms so that they are off the court surface. Leaving them to sit head down on the court or to rest longwise on the path or ground outside the fence can bend the bristles, rendering them all but useless over time. (Plus, if they’re on the ground, someone stands the chance of tripping on them.). Tap the equipment before hanging up to knock any loose material out of the bristles; putting equipment away dirty just means that it’ll put debris back on the court the next time it’s used. “Sponge rollers and squeegees should also be hung on a fence or rack,” says David Marsden of Boston Tennis Court Construction Company in Hanover, Mass. Having a special rack for court maintenance tools will encourage users (whether players or working personnel) to return equipment to its proper place. (Hanging equipment haphazardly on the fence might not get the message across.) If possible, have some sort of shelter that will keep equipment from getting wet in the rain, since allowing it to get wet, or worse, letting the whole tool rest in dirty water, will rust metal components. As long as we’re on the subject, think about protecting all your equipment from the elements. “Clay-court rollers should be stored under cover, or if kept outdoors, they should be put under a waterproof cover when not in use,” says Marsden. “Ditto for leaf blowers.”
In cold areas where soft courts won’t be maintained, and where there isn’t likely to be play until spring, take maintenance one step further by taking inside all court maintenance equipment. It won’t be needed, so there’s no reason for it to be outside and exposed to winter weather. Water ballast rollers should be protected from the elements by either: storing them in an area guaranteed not to freeze; draining the water out; or adding antifreeze to the drums in order to keep them from freezing and bulging. Regular rollers should be cleaned and lubricated, and stored for next spring. Change engine oil and transmission fluid in power rollers so that they are ready for action when playing weather arrives.
Check Your Equipment
Look at maintenance equipment closely on a regular basis. Check for loose heads or handles, cracking, rust spots, sharp or broken edges or splintering wood. Repair any problems if possible, or replace when necessary. Check the rubber edges of squeegees and the condition of foam rollers to make sure these are in good shape. If your larger or more expensive equipment is stored in a shed or garage onsite, check periodically to make sure that structure is still sound and not experiencing any leaking (or doesn’t show signs of having been tampered with). Trying to get “one more season” out of a piece of equipment rarely pays dividends, and letting something go too long can result in damage to your courts or worse, injury to someone using the equipment. Ask your pros, your players and your maintenance personnel to report any developing problems so you can check them out right away. Whether the equipment is as small as a rake or as large as a riding mower, you’ll want to keep it in good shape. The old ounce of prevention may be worth not just a pound of cure, but a few dollars on the balance sheet.
Maintain Other Court Components
In addition to keeping up maintenance equipment, contractors and suppliers encourage court owners and managers to be proactive in taking care of all areas of the court, not just the surface, for a better long-term financial picture.
- Take down windscreens and store them indoors, says Matt Strom of Leslie Coatings in Indianapolis.
- David Marsden recommends using waterproof covers for ball machines, or storing them in a shed or garage.
- “On hard surface courts that are not being used during winter, we suggest lowering the net to take tension off the net posts,” says Thomas DeRosa of DeRosa Tennis Contractors in Mamaroneck, N.Y. “The stress to the asphalt during freeze/thaw can cause cracking from post to post due to the tension from the net. It also may cause your footings to lift or cracks to form around the footing.”
- “We constantly recommend that tennis court owners remove the handles from the net post winding mechanisms,” says Lee Murray of Competition Athletic Surfaces in Chattanooga, Tenn. “Setting the nets to the correct height and removing the ability for the players to adjust the net tension will save the owner potential maintenance issues.”
Photos Courtesy Lee Tennis, Charlottesville, Va., and Edwards RolDri, Athletic Connection, Dallas
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.