Seek Shelter

This large-scale cover gives the impression of a circus big top or perhaps a sail. Photo courtesy of Shade Systems, Inc.

Many sports have rules governing this overrun zone, and/or the placement of equipment outside the lines, and camp administrators should make sure they are using the most current version of the rules when making placement decisions.

For example, if the camp includes tennis courts, shade structures must be placed outside the playing area. A clearance of 12 feet from a sideline to any fixed object is recommended. If shade structures are located between two courts, they should be placed within 12 feet of the net line and at least 10 feet from a sideline.

Players are more likely to see and be aware of a structure located on the long side of the court toward the middle than they are of something located behind the baseline. In all cases, however, observe the rules, and if in doubt, allow more (rather than less) space.

If you’re planning on adding a shade structure near one or more of the camp’s sports facilities, ask the advice of a specialty contractor with expertise in that sport. That person will know the rules and be able to offer recommendations based on player population, budget, and the facility.

A Little Or A Lot Of Shade?

Shade structures may be used for spot cover (meaning single areas, such as a table with an umbrella, or a pop-up tent that can be put up over a registration area at an event), for larger groups of people (such as a shelter that covers a set of bleachers, or perhaps an awning that covers a team bench that would otherwise be in the sun), or for an entire area.

An example of a large, permanent shade structure would be an outdoor pavilion where dozens of people gather for picnics, meals, or meetings.

Those whose camps are in areas where the weather is rainy will be asked about the possibility of putting canopies over facilities, such as volleyball courts, tennis courts, or other large areas. Is this possible? Yes, it is; however, be aware that certain parameters exist.

A playground can be ”tented” or covered relatively easily, provided the overhead space is adequate to ensure the safety of the children using the equipment.

A sports facility, though, is a different matter, since, in most cases, overhead clearances are dictated by the same governing bodies who set all the other rules.

Scrutinize the rules and speak with a sports-facility contractor who has the expertise before making any promises to campers, parents, or staff. Remember that covering a sports facility may create new needs, such as lighting, electricity, and more. A professional will be able to guide you in these matters as well.

You’ll always have sun worshipers at camp, but with any luck, you’ll be able to teach them that shade can be very cool too.

Note: The American Sports Builders Association (ASBA) is a non-profit association helping designers, builders, owners, operators, and users understand quality sports-facility construction. The ASBA publishes newsletters, books, and technical construction guidelines for athletic facilities. Available at no charge is a listing of all publications offered by the Association, as well as the ASBA’s Membership Directory. Info: 866-501-ASBA (2722) or

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, health, and industrial issues. She is an avid racquetball and squash player, and a full-time newspaper reporter in Baltimore, Md.

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