Indoor tennis facilities have unique challenges when it comes to keeping players safe.
To rephrase what your mother told you, it’s all fun and games until someone runs into a support column. The indoor tennis facility can offer a lot of advantages. No rain can stop the game, no oncoming wind can affect your serve, no sun can get in your eyes. It’s the perfect way to play — as long as everyone stays safe. By far, an indoor court manager’s greatest worry is having a player, in the heat of the match, run for a shot and not see an obstacle in his or her path. The common-sense approach to preventing this is threefold: (a) observe space requirements, (b) use appropriate safety padding, and (c) use correct placement of court furnishings.
The book Tennis Courts: A Construction and Maintenance Manual notes that on a typical 60- by 120-foot court area, the sideline overrun area (defined as the clear-playing space outside the lines) is 12 feet and the baseline overrun is 21 feet. Overruns are measured to the nearest wall, column or other surface enclosing the court.
Many indoor facilities use backdrop curtains behind the baselines to minimize the distraction caused by players or staff walking back and forth. The curtain should extend at least 10 feet above the finished court surface, although they can be as high as the wall itself. There should be at least 18 feet behind the baseline to the backdrop curtain, although as mentioned, 21 feet is recommended. Between the wall of the building and the inside edge of the curtain, there should be a passageway at least 3 feet wide.
Nothing should be stored behind the backdrop curtain. This includes ball machines, maintenance equipment or anything else that could cause tripping or injury to a player who backs into or runs into the curtain while chasing a ball.
In addition, nothing should interfere with the overrun area behind the baseline where it is likely to interfere with a player during a game — no benches, racquet bags, jackets, etc. should be in the space, and no spectators or personnel should be allowed to stand there. Stray balls should be removed from this space as quickly as possible without disrupting play. (Note: Indoor facilities with courts for 10 and Under Tennis should also observe required overrun distances.)
The second aspect of keeping indoor facilities as safe as possible is proper use of safety padding. Support columns, light posts and other fixed objects should be wrapped in shock-absorbing material to lessen the possible damage or injury that can occur if a player accidentally runs into them.
From a logistical standpoint, any structural member or masonry wall within 2 feet of the backdrop curtain should be padded. That padding should begin at the court surface and should extend at least 7 feet up.
The Tennis Courts book recommends padding be made of foam rubber and be at least 2 inches thick, although realistically, use of thicker padding is always acceptable. Padding can be vinyl-covered for appearance purposes, and for easier maintenance and cleaning.
While some indoor tennis play is held in retrofitted buildings with interior pillars, these are not recommended because of the inherent safety risks. Generally, buildings designed for tennis do not have supports that could obstruct play, or which anyone moving around the court could come in contact with.
Location, location, location: It’s not just the real estate agent’s mantra, it’s the third part of keeping your players safe on the court: proper placement of court furnishings. The recommended minimum clearance from the sideline of the court to a fixed object is 12 feet. Benches may be located slightly farther in (but no closer than 10 feet from the sideline) and should be within 12 feet of the net line.
The book notes that portable equipment, such as cooler stands, umpire’s chairs and players’ chairs, may be located within the recommended clearance; these items should be as close to the net line as practical and no more than 12 feet from the net line.
Multi-court indoor facilities generally use divider netting between courts to contain balls and create a visual boundary for players. The Tennis Courts book says, “Not less than 12 feet is required from the sideline to a fixed obstruction (i.e. sidestop, light pole, wall, etc.). Where courts are in a battery and where netting is used between courts, the netting is considered to be a movable obstruction, in which case 9 feet is considered a minimum between sideline and netting. (Only where space limitations become a factor and the 12-foot minimum cannot be provided may the side space from sideline to a fixed obstruction be reduced to a minimum of 10 feet). This dimension does not restrict obstructions at the net line; for example, the net post of the adjacent court or light standards.”
A good game inside means playing it safe, too.
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.