How Often Should YOU Replace ...
These tips from contractors can help you save your courts and equipment.
You have your oil changed every three months or 3,000 miles. You see a doctor for an annual checkup. You restring your racquet regularly.
So what is your routine for keeping your courts in good shape? Sure, you’re dragging your clay courts and blowing leaves off the hard ones, and you know about seasonal maintenance and repairs. But let’s be honest: In a budget-conscious time, nobody goes around looking for ways to spend money. How, then, do we know a piece of equipment needs to be replaced?
Easy, say court builders. Look for a few unmistakable symptoms:
If a court net droops, is frayed or has holes or tears, or if the headband looks old, worn-out or dirty, it’s obviously time to replace it. The center strap, cable and other components should be structurally sound at all times as well. Replacement parts such as headbands and center straps are also available on the market.
"New nets should be purchased annually for your highest-profile (most played-on) courts," says Tracy Lynch of Har-Tru Corp. in Charlottesville, Va., "and then in year two, those nets should be rotated to the courts that are not used as much. It’s always a good practice to store your nets inside during the winter months if your courts are not being played on."
Hard courts will get play in every possible season. Look for birdbaths (low spots on the surface where water collects after a rain) or heaving. If lines look faded, a contractor can replace them (which might be a good time to add those new 10 and Under Tennis lines you’ve been considering — see page 30 for details). Any cracks should be addressed by a contractor, since they can be a symptom of any number of different problems, both major and minor. The surface of high-traffic areas such as the baseline will show wear first, and a new coat of acrylic surfacing can make the court look new again.
"How often you’ll need to resurface will vary, depending upon the amount of play the courts get," says Lee Murray of Competition Athletic Surfaces. "When players start mentioning that play is a bit too fast, that is the first tip-off. Certainly, if you start noticing loose sand on the courts it’s time to make plans to resurface. This condition will worsen quickly and if not addressed, can get dangerous."
Soft courts require maintenance on a regular basis, says Lynch, who recommends annual top-dressing with 2 tons of surface for courts that do not receive winter play. "In year-round play climates, courts should be top-dressed twice a year to ensure the court is playing consistent and staying in top condition."
Slick spots in the court or areas where the subsurface material is showing through are symptoms that work is needed.
Lights lose their power as they age, and lamps burn out. Use a light meter to take readings around your courts and find out where light loss has occurred.
"It’s recommended to replace your lamps at 8,000 hours," says Lynch. "While most lamps have an average life of 12,000 hours, you start to lose significant amount of light output at the 6,000-hour mark. It’s also recommended that you do group replacement of lamps as opposed to individual lamps as they burn out. Group replacement ensures equal distribution of light and helps eliminate any potential hot/dark spots."
Windscreens will break down over time, and rips and tears will form, often around hems or attachment points. Loose areas that blow in the wind will result in widespread damage.
It’s a good idea to budget to replace windscreen every four to five years," says Lynch. "For budget reasons, I would suggest rotating windscreens as you do your nets. Replace the screen on your high-profile courts and rotate the old screens to the lesser-played-on courts."
Look at all equipment, checking 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 they are in good shape. 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 court or worse, injury to someone using the equipment.
Knowing what to look for is half the battle, say contractors. Actually looking for it on a regular basis — and then addressing it — will keep the courts playing well for years to come.
The publication Tennis Courts: A Construction and Maintenance Manual is an outstanding resource for court builders, facility owners and managers, park & rec departments, and anyone else interested in learning the latest about building and maintaining tennis courts and facilities. You can order the publication, which also contains information on 10 and Under Tennis courts, for $44.95 through the American Sports Builders Association (ASBA) at 866-501-ASBA (2722) or online at sportsbuilders.org. The manual also is available for download from the website.
Note: The American Sports Builders Association (ASBA) is a non-profit association helping designers, builders, owners, operators and users understand quality sports facility construction. The ASBA offers informative meetings and publications on tennis courts and running tracks. Available at no charge is a listing of all publications offered by the Association, as well as the ASBA’s Membership Directory. Info: 866-501-ASBA (2722) or sportsbuilders.org.
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.