Beauty Is More Than Just Skin Deep

Editor’s Note: This column, “LBWA” (Leadership By Wandering Around), is based on the premise that, in order to find out what’s going on in the field, a parks and rec leader has to leave his or her desk and “wander around” the area of operations, talk to people, ask questions, and kick around ideas with the individuals in the thick of delivering services to the public. So the author will bring up issues and ask the leaders among the readership to share their knowledge and experiences.   

When it comes to maintaining outdoor tennis and basketball courts, beauty is more than skin deep. Parks and recreation professionals who care for these facilities are painfully aware of this.

Cracks in courts that sprout weeds, low spots that hold water, shaded areas that collect leaves, and debris that makes the court slippery—and a few more common travails of tennis and basketball courts—are the challenges maintenance practitioners face each year as spring turns to summer and people take to the courts.

Consider this: Nearly 70 percent of tennis played in the U.S. is played

Photos By Randy Gaddo

Photos By Randy Gaddo

on public courts, according to information from the U.S. Tennis Association. It is the only traditional sport that has shown growth over the past 8 years.

If resources are not allocated to maintain the courts, a major percentage of patrons will not be served; unfortunately, over the past few years rec departments have mostly seen a decline in resources.

“We have always tried to allocate a set amount in our annual budget to repair and resurface courts,” says John Turnbul, sports division director for the city of Bloomington, Ind., parks and rec department. “But we’ve lost that money in the last three or four years. At this time, we have a couple of courts that are well below our standards, but we haven’t closed them, yet.”

When it comes to prolonging the life of courts, preventive maintenance is critical, says Mary Helen Sprecher, technical writer and marketing coordinator for the American Sports Builders Association.

“A tennis or basketball court is not unlike a car; if you don’t take care of all the preventive maintenance items, it’s not going to last,” she points out. “You wouldn’t let your car go 9 months without an oil change, or if it’s making a clunking noise, you’d take it right to the mechanic. It’s the same with courts.”

Sprecher stresses that simple tasks can make all the difference, such as blowing the leaves and pine needles off the courts so the debris


doesn’t eventually leave stains and slippery spots. Fixing cracks correctly when they are small can also prolong life and extend times between costly resurfacing.

“You can’t just paint over cracks, low spots, and mildew and hope to provide the best-quality court,” Sprecher notes.  “A lot of people want the quick fix. If there’s a crack, they go right to their local hardware store and get a tube of stuff that’s made for filling cracks in driveways, which is a totally different product.” The patch won’t last, it will make a mess on the court, and there will be more complaints.

Material Matters

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  2. On The Surface
  3. Repair, Resurface, Or Rebuild
  4. A Relish For Senior Programming
  5. Pitching In
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