Tennis Industry magazine


Court Construction and Maintenance: Intelligent design

When designing a new facility or making changes to your existing one, you need to ask the right questions and think it through.

By Mary Helen Sprecher

Heart pounding? Perspiration dripping? Concentrating on your next move? Worrying about the bottom line? Wait — we’re not talking about a tennis match?

Nope, this is how people feel about the process of designing a new tennis facility — or making significant changes to the one they have. Often, owners are intimidated by the whole concept: how to do it, what to consider, when to partner with someone — and who that should be. Angst ensues, and one of two things happens: Either the process gets the bum’s rush so the result isn’t satisfactory, or nobody wants to make any decisions, leading to long delays.

Take one deep breath and one step back. Designing a tennis facility is a process. An outline of the facility you need will emerge if you just ask the right questions. Sometimes it helps to think of the process as part of a flow chart. The questions you ask, and the answers you get, will lead you through each step.

Question 1: Number of Courts

Whether your facility is new (as in, being designed from the ground up), or whether you are contemplating changes to an existing facility, one of the earliest questions will pertain to the number of courts needed. The need for more courts in any area is obvious: Symptoms include loud complaints from players and pros who want court time and can’t get it. But how to decide how many courts you ultimately need?

The book Tennis Courts: A Construction and Maintenance Manual (available from the ASBA at, recommends the following:

Question 2: Type of Courts

The type of court, meaning the surface, should be chosen by considering the following:

Question 3: Player Population

What type of players do you have? This should factor into the design criteria. Consider the different groups that play at your facility, or those playing in the area that might come to your facility:

Question 4: Court Use

What types of programming will you have? Make a list of current or planned offerings, including lessons, clinics, round-robin play, block time for team practices, Cardio Tennis and more.

Question 5: Amenities

What does your existing facility have, and what would you like to add? If building from the ground up, prioritize the things you need, the things you’d like to have and more. A partial list for consideration:

 Put It All Together

Create a prospectus with the answers to the questions above. Once you have this information in hand, you’ll be ready to work with a design partner.

There are design-specific firms, as well as companies that provide both design and construction services. One of the most popular construction delivery methods is the Design/Bid/Build, or Competitive Bid, approach. In this format, the owner engages a design firm to devise a facility design, prepare construction drawings, specifications and construction documents and put the project out for bid. General contractors then prepare bids based on these documents.

A second process is the Design/Build construction procurement process, in which the owner contracts with a single company that is responsible for both the design and construction of the project. Other methods, such as Negotiated Agreements and Construction Management Projects, are also used, but these are generally reserved for very small projects (Negotiated Agreements) and very large and complex projects (Construction Management Projects).

Choosing the Right Partner

Choosing the correct partner for either Design/Bid/Build or Design/Build will be the key to success. Tennis court construction is a highly specialized field and calls for knowledge of the sport, the products and techniques, the surfaces and all the accessories and amenities needed. A tennis court, though relatively flat, is not a parking lot, nor is it simply a floor. It must be constructed to specific tolerances in order to be considered appropriate for sanctioned play.

Seek out experienced contractors. Check references and ask to visit projects they have completed. Contact the American Sports Builders Association (ASBA) and ask about a directory of members. In addition, ASBA conducts a voluntary certification program, in which individuals can earn the Certified Tennis Court Builder (CTCB) designation. (See page 34 for more information about this

The professional partner you choose will work with you to design the facility that best meets your needs. That partner will understand issues such as soil conditions, grading, drainage, storm-water management and more, and can help you negotiate the maze of permitting and code enforcement.

The path from drawing board to completed facility is a complex one, but it is not impossible. By bringing as much information as you can to the table, you will be ready to be a partner, rather than a bystander, in the process.

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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.



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