December 2015

SportsTurf provides current, practical and technical content on issues relevant to sports turf managers, including facilities managers. Most readers are athletic field managers from the professional level through parks and recreation, universities.

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W hen it comes to grass tennis courts, synthetic turf has a hard act to follow. Purists who follow play at Wimbledon, for example, love the fast game that natural grass provides, the fact that the surface stays cooler than many others, and the fact that there isn't any glare, even on the brightest day. It is, they believe, the way the game of tennis was meant to be played. Looking beyond all the things the tennis idealists value, however, grass tennis courts have the same limitations as other natural athletic fields, including the need for daily care and regular maintenance, and the requirement that they be allowed to rest between periods of heavy use. Like natural fields, a heavy rain can put grass courts out of action temporarily, since trying to rush them back into use results in a muddy surface that can be dangerous to the athlete and damaging to the grass. It would seem, then, that artificial turf would be a runaway favorite as a surface in the US. But we don't hear as much about the use of artificial turf in tennis installations as we do in field sports, such as soccer, football, field hockey, lacrosse and more. Why is that? Depends, say those in the industry. Synthetic turf certainly has several practical points in its favor. "One of the primary advantages of synthetic turf is the softer, more forgiving nature of the surface but with lower maintenance than expected on most soft courts," says David Marsden of Boston Tennis Court Construction Company, Inc. in Hanover, MA. In some systems, the turf is manufactured with a cushioned backing, or it is installed over a cushion mat to provide greater player comfort. (The use of such cushioning will affect the final price, as will the quality of the system and the fill). The good things about synthetic turf in tennis courts are sim- ilar to the good things in fields, says Rob Werner of Sportsline, Inc. in Bryn Mawr, PA. "The fibers will be softer and the infill will be better." ADVANTAGE: SYNTHETIC TURF In addition, synthetic turf is excellent for installations that are difficult in other circumstances. "Synthetic turf courts are a good solution for rooftop installa- tions," notes Rick Burke of NGI Sports, Div. of River City Athletics, LLC, in Chattanooga, TN." They can be installed without heavy equipment, and materials are easily transferred to the roof deck. 32 SportsTurf | December 2015 TENNIS COURTS AND SYNTHETIC TURF: IS THE GRASS ALWAYS GREENER? FACILITY & OPERATIONS ■ BY MARY HELEN SPRECHER

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