April 23, 2020| Lester Yat
A brightly-painted tennis court. A decorative, slip-resistant concrete deck surrounding a sparkling swimming pool. A neatly-striped, crack-free parking lot.
You don’t have to be a tennis ace, championship swimmer, or professional driver to appreciate surfaces that are safe and attractive. They’re all part of that cherished real estate feature known as “curb appeal.”
On the other hand, a condominium tennis or basketball court displaying faded paint and a spider-web of cracks across its surface tells an entirely different story to visitors, would-be buyers and even long-time residents. It could be a story of budget restraints, or one of indifference on the part of the association board — or maybe an indication that the demographics of the community have changed, and no one is interested in playing tennis or roundball these days.
Whatever the underlying reason, a surface that has fallen into disrepair puts the wrong face on a community.
Time to Renovate!
What are the options for bringing life back to an under-used or just plain unattractive sports court?
Suppose there’s currently a resurgence in interest, and residents want to see that decades-old tennis court spruced up and brought into the 21st century. It’s time to get rid of that tired old synthetic grass, cracked asphalt, bent net posts and poor drainage!
Here are some of the most common tennis court renovation methods being used today:
Sand-filled synthetic turf. If you like the look and feel of a grass court but not the faded-carpet image of yesterday’s synthetic grass, you’re in luck. Today’s grass-like turf is filled with colored sand, providing comfort and safety. And, installers say, the new surface can effectively span structural cracks in existing substrates.
Another new method being touted by vendors is called “post-tensioned concrete.” In this installation, concrete is placed under compression from steel cables running through the slab to resist cracking and settling. This method can be used both for construction of courts on new sites, or over existing tennis courts.
Suspended surfaces are engineered to provide shock absorption and lateral forgiveness to reduce the stress on player’s joints and back that is commonly associated with hard court surfaces, according to Sport Court, a major player in multi-sport modular sports flooring.
Then there are traditional hard courts with acrylic surfaces, the “tried and true playing surfaces” that American tennis players are familiar with. Hard courts are favored by many communities for their durability, low maintenance and suitability for other sports. Hard courts generally consist of multiple layers of asphalt that are covered with an acrylic coating. This mutli-layer paint system seals and protects the asphalt, provides the necessary surface texture for play and provides the court’s color scheme. Hard courts are low maintenance and suitable for other sports such as basketball and in-line hockey.
If your old court looks a bit seedy, renovation may not be as daunting as it sounds. Resurfacing involves the repair of structural cracks, leveling the court to remove surface depressions, and laying down a new acrylic coating. Due to seasonal freezing and thawing, of course, even well-constructed hard courts will develop cracks and low spots and will require maintenance over time. Experts generally recommend resurfacing on a five- to seven-year cycle.
And if the court is in really rough shape, contractors today can build a new court right on top of the old one. In many cases, the old court can serve as an excellent foundation for a new court. Before you know it, your court will look as good as the day you were attracted to your community with its great curb appeal.
Time for a Change
But what if your condominium community simply isn’t interested in tennis or basketball?
Across the nation, community associations — along with municipalities — are re-purposing their traditional sports courts. These days, one of the most popular options for these recycled spaces is a conversion to pickleball courts.
You’ve never heard of pickleball? It’s a sport that’s gaining popularity across the country, driven in part by the senior set, because it’s less physically demanding than tennis.
Pickleball is played on a badminton-sized court, with a 34-inch high net. It’s played with a perforated plastic ball— similar to a whiffle ball — and wood or composite paddles about twice the size of ping-pong paddles. Although easy to learn, it can develop into a fast-paced, competitive game for experienced players. Another plus: players say that in addition to being fun, the game is popular because of its friendly and social nature.
Moreover, tennis and pickleball can actually share an existing court; players just have to get accustomed to having two sets of lines. In fact, a standard tennis court can accommodate two pickleball courts with the use of portable net stands.
If pickleball isn’t your speed, here are a few other conversion ideas to consider:
At Fort Sill, a U.S. Army base near Lawton, OK, three little-used tennis courts were turned into a golf learning center, with five full swing stations, six contoured chipping stations, a bunker, a 1,300-square-foot contoured putting area and open space for group instruction.
A grassroots group in Utah turned a set of unused tennis courts into a community garden, providing both exercise and healthy food for residents.
In Colorado, a townhouse community converted its little-used tennis courts into a dog park.
Tennis, anyone? If your community replies with a resounding “Yes,” it may be time to renovate the courts. And if no one raises a racquet, it may be time to consider an alternative, giving that tired space a whole new look.