Order On The Court

To prepare basketball courts for winter, remove the cord netting, touch up paint on backboards, and check the stability of the pole supporting the backboard. Photos Courtesy Of Plexipave Sport Surfacing, A Division of California Products Corporation, Andover, MA

In many areas of the U.S., outdoor sports facilities, including basketball courts and tennis courts in parks, can remain open year-round.

The rest of us, well, we're not so lucky. And in those areas, municipal workers are prepping their courts for the winter hibernation. The good news is that this is a great time to requisition supplies for next year, and budget for repairs and improvements. After all, the first time a spring breeze whispers by, players will be anxious to get out on the court and play. Courts should be ready when athletes are ready.

At this time of year, work will fall into three categories:

  • Preventive maintenance

  • Proactive ordering

  • Professional consultations.

Here is a checklist of actions to take:

Surface Inspection

Many municipal courts have asphalt surfaces with a layer of acrylic sports-specific coating. Because the freeze-thaw action in cold

Freezing and thawing cycles may cause a court to heave and crack. Have them inspected by a specialty contractor.

weather may lead to cracking in the asphalt, it's essential to monitor the condition of the surface. Check for and measure any cracks that may be present. If necessary, keep a chart. A specialty contractor can provide recommendations on what may have caused the crack and on appropriate repair methods. Look for places where the court surface might be dipping or heaving, and have those addressed as well. Remember that players will return as soon as the weather warms up (and sometimes even when it's not perfect). You don't want a surface where players could stumble or trip.

Child's Play

For those who have been thinking about increasing children's programming using the 10 and Under Tennis format of the United States Tennis Association's (USTA), the budget should provide for those new lines on the court as well. Here's the Reader's Digest version: Phone your local court builder and inquire about the cost of lining the courts for 10U play. It's that simple, and the courts can probably be lined before the snow flies. Getting on the schedule—either now or early in the spring—means you’ll be prepared in promoting warm-season programming.

Information on 10U play—how it is set up, how it works, and how to make existing courts work for multiple generations—is available by at www.usta.com.

The book, Tennis Courts: A Construction and Maintenance Manual , notes that while the use of dedicated QuickStart courts is preferred, “both the [International Tennis Federation] and USTA agree that painting QuickStart lines on 78-foot tennis courts is acceptable, even on courts used for competition, except those used for Davis Cup, Fed Cup, and ITF-sanctioned matches. Painted lines for QuickStart courts should be a color within the same color family of the 78-foot court surface (i.e., light blue on a dark blue court). This differentiates QuickStart playing lines from the lines of the 78-foot court.”

If the playing lines on the regular court are white, for example, the new lines should not be white, or any color that might easily be mistaken for white (such as grey). The 10U lines are also of a different width, and will stop short of the adult lines so as to eliminate confusion. A tennis court contractor can explain the specifics.

Net Result

Freezing temperatures will cause tennis-net cables (made of metal) to tighten, which can, in turn, stress the posts and the winding mechanism, as well as the center strap and the bolt that secures them. In many areas, municipalities loosen the net cables in winter; however, to be on the safe side (and avoid players trying to tighten the net and play during an unexpectedly warm day), the net and cable can be removed entirely for the duration of the winter.

Basketball nets don't have this problem, obviously, but the cord netting on the basket can be removed for the winter, and replaced with a new one in the spring for a better aesthetic effect. It might also be a good time to touch up paint on the backboards, or order new ones, if necessary. Check the stability of the net itself, as well as the pole supporting the backboard—too many kids trying to emulate their NBA heroes by hanging on the hoop can take a toll on facilities over time.

On The Fence

Inspect any fencing surrounding a court. If the court is protected by a windscreen and will be closed for winter, remove the windscreen. Winter's heavier winds and possible precipitation may cause too much stress, leading to tearing.

Examine the fence carefully. Are there any rails that have fallen, or are threatening to? Does the fence fabric droop or bulge in spots? Look for areas that are rusty, or that might cause injury to a player or spectator.

Light On The Subject

If the courts are lit, check how the lamps are functioning. If any lights are either burned out or malfunctioning, call in a specialist to provide a recommendation on ordering new equipment, if necessary.

Spectator Sports

If there are benches, picnic tables, bleachers, or other seating areas around the courts, take some time to ensure they're in good repair. Look for splinters, sharp edges, peeling paint, rusty spots, exposed hardware, or anything else that may cause an injury.

Walkways, Paths, And Landscaping

Take a few moments to inspect areas surrounding the court, areas where landscaping might be encroaching onto walkways, or where players or spectators might trip. If roots are forcing up sidewalks, or if cracks are present in paths, take whatever steps are necessary to avoid a hazard.

While this sounds repetitious, please remember: It's easy to put off action until next season, until the players come back. It's more difficult to have to react to a problem as a result of a sudden complaint—or worse yet, an injury to a player. Be proactive, and everyone stays happy.

Mary Helen Sprecher has been a technical writer for more than 20 years with the American Sports Builders Association. She has written on various topics relating to sports-facility design, construction and supply, as well as sports medicine, education, and health and industrial issues. She is an avid racquetball and squash player, and a full-time newspaper reporter in Baltimore, Md.

Bryan BuchkoComment