Tennis Courts 101

The sport of tennis is growing in leaps and bounds as a recreational activity among college students; in fact,, a Website that monitors players and stats, receives 3.5M page visits from students each month. In addition, intercollegiate tennis and the popular USTA Tennis on Campus Program continue to flourish.
While tennis courts are a great addition to any campus, budget constraints make it challenging to maintain, expand, or renovate tennis facilities. Here are a few tips on selecting the best surface for your campus, properly maintaining your facility, and creative ways to finance your facility.

 If replacing existing old, cracked courts is the issue, a great alternative to the expense of rebuilding is employing a monolithic pavement overlay. A monolithic pavement overlay surface offers a traditional all-weather tennis court and is specifically designed for the most challenging resurfacing job. The system is detached and “free floating” above the existing pavement; therefore, cracks and other flaws in the pavement will affect neither the visible surface of the court nor the structural stability of this cushioned overlay system.

Monolithic pavement overlay systems have been successfully installed in diverse climates on campuses throughout the country, including Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, NM; George Washington University in Washington, DC; and William Patterson University in Wayne, NJ.

Financial Considerations
Colleges and universities can cut costs even further by leasing a free-floating system. Here’s how it works. The school agrees to lease the court for the term of the warranty (five to 10 years), and then purchases the court at the end of the lease for a nominal fee. The initial monetary layout is smaller than a purchase, and there are often tax benefits from a leasing program (check with your financial officers to see how your school would benefit).

Another way to work within a smaller budget is to choose a less expensive surface. For many customers, softer surfaces are recommended for playability. But if your courts are primarily for students, a harder surface, which is less costly, may serve your needs. If you are leasing court time to members of the community, spend the extra money on the softer playing surface to accommodate players of all age groups. A softer surface will keep people playing longer and coming back for more.
Environmental Concerns
Many state universities require environmentally conscious alternatives when planning facilities, and there are plenty of government programs offering incentives to incorporate green alternatives in new building projects. With environmental consciousness at an all-time high, think about utilizing an eco-friendly tennis court system. Companies exist that have made it a priority to use recycled and sustainable materials in the manufacturing and installation of their tennis courts.

A monolithic pavement overlay system can replace environmentally unfriendly solvent- and petroleum-based asphalt pavements, which consume high amounts of energy and heat to produce and install. This patented pavement uses a urethane waterproofing made from 60 to 70 percent recycled and sustainable natural materials by weight. Components of the coating are based on polymers extracted from soybean oil, a renewable source that, unlike petroleum, is easily and readily replenished without harm to the environment. And by working on the existing pavement, base materials such as fencing and landscaping can remain intact because there is no need for demolition or heavy equipment. The site is essentially being recycled.

The best way to cut costs is to maintain the courts you already have. Make sure they are thoroughly inspected and cleaned annually to avoid small problems evolving into big problems. Repair cracks immediately; don’t wait for the elements to get into the base and wreak havoc. Keep tennis areas free of mud, silt, and dead vegetation buildup, which can damage the surface and even start a cracking problem. Since more than 75 percent of tennis court problems are caused by water, it is also vital to make sure that water is draining away and not over and under the court.

Also, be sure to designate the area for tennis only. Skateboarders and rollerbladers should go to a local park. The bottom line is that keeping the tennis courts you have in top shape will enable your students, staff, and community to enjoy them for years to come.

Rick Burke is the president and CEO of NGI Sports (, and has been a leader in the synthetic turf industry for more than 30 years. NGI Sports, based in Chattanooga, TN, supplies the tennis, golf, and sports and recreation industries with innovative, eco-friendly surfacing systems that contribute to the sustainability of playing areas.