Courts: Image is Everything
You may not notice things wearing out and wearing down, but your players will. Here’s how you can keep your facility looking, and playing, its best.
You see your tennis facility every day. But do you really see it? The image you think your tennis facility is projecting — that of a spiffy, well-cared-for set of courts, may fall short of that. Over time, a facility can lose its luster, not because of one big thing, but because of many small things that wear out, wear down and fade. You might not notice, but players, particularly those new to your facility, will.
Want to stay on top of those little downturns? Start by borrowing a new set of eyes. Invite a colleague from a different facility to come and walk your courts, and take note of the places where improvement is needed. Do the same for that person in return.
Three rules: First, neither one of you is allowed to get testy with the other over any observations made; in fact, it’s probably better if each person examines the other’s facility alone. Second, neither one of you is allowed to dismiss any of the other’s recommendations. If they noticed it, so have plenty of others. Third, meet at your local watering hole or coffee shop to unwind and trade these observations. There’s something about being off the premises that makes it easier to talk.
What kinds of things will come under scrutiny? Sometimes, things you never thought of (or perhaps you noticed them, but thought they weren’t important). And each change you make to correct those problems, minor as you may have thought they were initially, will bring your courts back to life and really make them pop.
- On the surface: Hard courts, whether inside or outside, will get stains that mar the overall look of the court. Some stains are faint (a Coke or other soft drink was spilled on the surface and needs to be hosed off) and some are more noticeable (rust stains around a net post, fence gate or light post). The person who installed your courts can give you recommendations on the best way to clean various types of stains. Other noticeable surface issues include blemishes such as cracks, high or low spots, dings, etc. As with stains, repair methods can vary according to the problem; a tennis court contractor will be able to give specific advice.
- Nets: An old net can make an entire facility look tired. Nets with noticeable holes or rips, or nets that are faded and disintegrating because of excess weathering, need to be replaced. Period. If all that is wrong with the net is one or two stains on the white headband, these can be treated with a bleach/water solution, but only after the net has been removed from the court, since bleach will cause spotting if it drips onto an acrylic surface. New headbands can also be obtained, and laced over the existing headband.
- Posts: According to Richard Zaino of Zaino Tennis Courts in Orange, Calif., net posts are an often-overlooked aspect of the court. “Nobody removes the net posts from the sleeves to clean either the sleeve or net post in the sleeve,” he says. “If possible, the owner should remove the net post once a year to clean the inside sleeve and paint the outside of the post with a rust inhibitor. Then he should paint all of the net post for a fresh-looking post. This will help to save the existing net post and get the most from the original installation.” Another way of seeing how your net posts are working is by checking the tension on nets. Once the tension is correct, check to make sure the net is 36” at the center strap, and 42” at the post. If the winding mechanism in the post has seen better days or if the post won’t hold nets to the proper setting, it’s time for a replacement or a new tensioning device. Nothing looks worse than a net that is sagging drastically and allowing the fabric to puddle onto the court. A court contractor can advise you.
- Windscreens: If your outdoor court uses windscreens, it should look neat, clean and even. Inspect your entire windscreens to make sure there are no rips or tears in the fabric, and no damage where it attaches to the fence. Pay extra attention to the hem and grommet areas. When the windscreen is attached to the fence, it is imperative to make sure every grommet is being used with the attachment device it came with (i.e. tie-wraps, lacing cord, etc.). Ripped hems, loose grommets and windscreen that has come loose from the fence is not only unattractive, but can cause even further damage to the windscreen since loose fabric will start to flap against the fence.
- Fence: As long as you’re out looking at the windscreen, Lee Murray of Competition Athletic Surfaces in Chattanooga, Tenn., suggests taking some time to examine the fence as well. “The fencing is often overlooked,” he says. “Make sure the fence fabric is properly tied to the posts and bottom wire/rail. Nothing looks worse, not to mention more hazardous, than having the fence wire bowing out at the bottom. Check your gates, too, since gates can slip with time. Make certain they swing freely and don’t drag on the court surface.” A bonus, he notes, is the fact that “these items can be easily fixed by the owner.”
- Lighting: If courts are lit, check to make sure no lamps are burned out, and that all are functioning. According to Bruce Frasure of LSI Industries in Cincinnati, “Replacing the lamps in the court lighting fixtures may improve the light levels by as much as 30 to 40 percent.” (You can always go through the facility with a light meter if you want to check for light uniformity; again, you might not think players notice, but they do).
- Court Furnishings: If there are tables, chairs, benches, umbrellas, awnings, etc., check to make sure they’re clean, usable and in good working order. Maintenance as simple as a regular wipe-down can make a big difference.
- What else? Take a look around the court. This time, direct your attention above the surface and below the lights. If this is an indoor court, and there are any windows, are they clean? Are the windowsills cluttered or clear of debris? Indoors or out, if there are banners, signs or other notices hung in various places, they should be hanging straight and be immediately readable. A drooping league banner or a rule sign that is propped against the fence at foot level looks trashy. And speaking of trashy…
- “For heaven’s sakes,” says Lee Murray, “if you put out garbage containers, then make a commitment to empty them regularly.” This also applies to recycle bins that hold empty water bottles, tennis ball canisters and so on.
Small changes can make a big difference in the image your facility projects. And as we all know, image is everything.
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.