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Guest Column - November 2017

Sports Facility Safety

Safety First for Indoor Tennis Facilities

By Amanda Williams


Tennis courts depend on a dry environment to maintain surface materials, so providing a year-round tennis facility can set a business above the competition and shelter players from unsafe weather. But many injuries occur inside athletic structures, and there are points to consider when creating the safest space for practice and play. When constructing an indoor tennis facility, buildings should be held to the highest safety standards, and a level court and sufficient emergency exits are only a couple of concerns to be considered.

Avoiding Hazards of the Court

Slippery courts can be a major danger, which is why outdoor courts often close due to inclement weather, slowing down business with costly cancellations. Fabric-covered structures create an environment that can help players and business owners avoid nasty and harsh weather, which can ruin practice or a match. Besides covering the playing surface, there are some basic topics that should be addressed within individual facilities to maintain the safest environment.

Areas of heavy use, like doorways, walkways and spectator seating areas are prone to the risk of injury. Making sure these areas are inspected and maintained is a practice that should become habit. In addition to frequent supervision, one's choice in flooring is a main concern when addressing safety inside an athletic facility.

Safe and uniform flooring inside a sports arena is a key factor in creating a safe space for playing, and in some sports, like tennis, the flooring one chooses can make a difference in the quality of an indoor court. For example, fast-dry synthetic clay, sand-filled turf or other non-synthetic soft materials have more leeway and can help avoid slips, falls and shin splints, minimizing the harmful impact on player's knees.

Flooring choice affects the interior environment, as well, and can help avoid collected moisture and humidity inside the building. For most facilities, it is more important to keep courts dry over anything else, so making sure one has an effective ventilation system to combat humidity is fundamental. Adversely, an indoor clay court that is too dry can require some water to avoid compacted surfaces. Some facilities are aerating indoor courts with machines that shoot highly pressurized streams of water into the surface of the court, creating cavities that help water penetrate, avoiding moisture build-up and effectively loosening the surface material.

Humidity and moisture take their toll on tennis courts in general, creating unsafe conditions, but a humid indoor environment can also have adverse affects on players' health, negatively impacting breathing and promoting nausea or fatigue. Proper ventilation inside an indoor sports facility helps to create effective air exchange, which results in healthy air quality for players and also has a dehumidifying effect on the interior of a building. Providing air movement pathways, monitoring air pressure and temperature are all methods of maintaining a healthy environment. Moisture and ventilation are a tricky challenge to face, especially when the safety of tennis athletes is a priority. For this reason, controlling humidity for indoor courts could require some environmental controllers that kick in when relative humidity levels are undesirable.

Fabric structures are known to provide innovative designs that utilize passive and mechanical ventilation to keep athletic facilities cool and dry, and some fabric structure companies incorporate ventilation systems into the design. Fabric structure specialists have seen hundreds of adaptations for unique needs and safety requirements.

Custom-Tailored Fabric Structure Solutions

One company taking advantage of a fabric structure is Rockwall Athletic Club in Rockwall, Texas, just 25 miles from Dallas. It is a picturesque club with golf courses, swimming and tennis facilities, intent on serving customers year-round. They recognized that their tennis program was what was drawing in new customers in recent years, but their courts were out in the open and vulnerable to inclement weather, especially during those Texas summers. The Head Tennis Pro at Rockwall chose a fabric structure because the 120-foot W buildings were the perfect size to comfortably cover the standard tennis court.

It is details like measurements, ventilation, safety plans and safe construction that make utilizing an expert design team an invaluable choice. Head Tennis Pro Joey Molina reported, "We can now play tennis indoors. Now that we have two of our courts covered, we can remain active when it rains. What's more, the technology of the high-density polyethylene fabric cover provides exceptional light permeability and also keeps the building up to 20 degrees warmer in the winter and 20 degrees cooler in the summer. The combined natural daytime lighting and comfortable environment really makes this building unique." The overall benefits of using a fabric structure eliminate the risk of cancellations due to unsafe weather conditions, putting safety first and helping businesses out of a tough spot.

ClearSpan Sales Manager Geoff Ching, who worked on the project, said, "I grew up playing tennis and am always interested in what a pro might find exceptional when considering design plans. Rain, at all, is a major 'no-no' for the sport of tennis; a slippery court is simply dangerous. Ventilation systems involving both passive and mechanical technology are a way businesses can combat court-damaging humidity problems often faced by indoor facilities, protecting surface investments."

Fabric buildings are not only safe structures, but they can be designed with any particular safety plan, and it is the knowledge of those like Ching that make the fabric structure industry one of the fastest-growing, not only within tennis, but athletics as a whole. Even the most secure buildings need a watchful eye to keep employees and players out of danger, so use these tips to ensure a safe space for year-round play and to consider how your structure—or lack thereof—may need an improvement.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amanda Williams is a content writer for ClearSpan, which specializes in fabric structures for all athletic and recreational needs. For more information, visit www.clearspan.com.