Court Construction and Maintenance: A Moveable Feast
Temporary and portable courts — using modular tiles or rolled products — are helping to grow tennis participation with children and adults.
The good news: Tennis participation is trending upward. But, it’s still a “try-and-buy” sport. In other words, to sell people — kids and adults — on the fun and benefits of tennis, it’s necessary to get them onto the court and hitting balls.
The industry-wide 10 and Under Tennis initiative has helped make the sport accessible, not only creating standalone 36- and 60-foot Youth Tennis courts, but also allowing lines for smaller courts to be painted on 78-foot courts, or painted or temporarily laid down on playgrounds, parking lots, gym floors and other surfaces. But for times when it becomes necessary to actually bring in a court, many in the industry recommend using a portable surface.
Portable surfaces are those that can be laid into place in time for a special event. They may take the form of modular interlocking tiles or rolled or textile products. The common denominator? Their ability to be used, and re-used.
"We store a portable 8-and-under-sized court for the USTA Tennessee Section and have done several remote events both indoors and out," says Lee Murray of Competition Athletic Surfaces in Chattanooga, Tenn. "By setting up this safe, attractive tennis court and having qualified teaching pros on hand, we can get kids on a court and experience tennis for the first time in their lives. The pros’ goal is simply to give the kids a fun tennis experience. While the parents are watching, a representative of the local community tennis association will talk to them about programming and lesson options."
As clubs, parks and fitness facilities work to gain new members and players, representatives are starting to take the game to the streets, having booths at community festivals and health fairs. Other venues include senior expos, summer camp meet-and-greets, open houses and more. The fact that nets are collapsible and balls are lower pressure adds to the appeal of the set-up. An additional advantage of temporary courts, says Franz Fasold of Ace Surfaces North America in Altamonte Springs, Fla., is the fact that they take up significantly less storage space than might be expected.
"Modular surfaces also combine the comfort and resiliency of a soft court with the durability and low maintenance of a hard court," notes Fred Jones of Mateflex in Utica, N.Y. He adds such courts can provide a good playing experience in the presence of minor flaws in the sub-base.
In addition, says Randy Futty, director of tennis for Connor Sport Court International based in Salt Lake City, Utah, a portable, modular surface can “offer the safety that parents want, with exceptional footing and shock absorption, along with the performance and ball bounce that 10 and Under Tennis players need.”
"I would recommend using modular surface tiles for the surface and a portable tennis system," says Chris Rickerl of Douglas Industries in Eldridge, Iowa.
While it’s easy to praise the courts’ ease and versatility, builders say the real proof is seeing them in action.
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.