More homeowners are claiming the home court advantage. For some, getting court time for a soccer match or pickup basketball game is as easy as stepping into the backyard or basement.
Americans have had a love-love affair playing tennis and other outdoor sports at home since the early 20th century, but today's residential courts aren't just a numbers game for the wealthy, says Anthony Cordova, regional Salt Lake City sales director of Sport Court International, a company founded in 1974 that installs modular multigame surfaces with about 300 certified contractors worldwide. "The evolution of our market closely follows that of families who have backyard pools," he says. "It used to be a status symbol of the wealthy, but our Sport Court growth is spreading to more modest neighborhoods, too."
Friendly competition aside, a homeowner has to plan ahead if the name of the game is family fun on a backyard or indoor court. Before bringing your A-game to home turf, Cordova says have a game plan.
"The minimum space requirement is 900 square feet, for a 30-by-30-foot court," he says. "Indoor courts are new construction, because they ideally require a 30-foot ceiling." The most common court space is one that is at least 30 feet wide by 60 feet long, according to Cordova.
It's easier than ever for family and friends to play in the zone with a multigame court, as long as long as homeowners have secured the proper permits before construction begins. "Before assembling your dream team, you need to apply for local building permits, which often means disclosing to neighbors your plans for an outdoor court, or construction can become a nightmare," Cordova says. "Landscaping, fencing, netting and lighting add to the aesthetics of a court and are often part of the construction plan."
While prices differ from region to region, Cordova says expect to pay at least $8,000 for a small 30-by-30-foot court, with costs that can exceed $100,000 as courts become larger with more sporty extras.
While homeowners don't need regulation-size courts to enjoy backyard sports, it's imperative the site be smooth and graded away from a home's foundation to drain properly, so rain doesn't pool on the court surface or run into the basement.
"After the size of the outdoor court is determined and graded properly, the site is prepared by pouring a concrete pad, on which we build the court," Cordova says. "For optimal play, you want a stable subsurface."
At the same time concrete is being poured for the court pad, Cordova says homeowners may also pour on creativity with hardscaping that may include lights, fencing and seating courtside. Indoor, below-grade courts need to have a vapor barrier installed before the court flooring goes down.
As for court surfaces, forget the indoor-outdoor carpet image. For the look of a grassy Wimbledon court or a putting green without the upkeep, synthetic turf is a less labor-intensive alternative. Today's fake turf is made of knitted nylon with tufted fibers colored to look and play more like the real deal. Indoor court flooring can also be made of wood, but is more expensive in terms of upkeep and maintenance.
Today, the residential court market is dominated by a surface made of high-impact interlocking polypropylene flooring tiles with an open grid design to provide cushion for athletes. Because of the court's design, there are no cracks in the playing surface, so an athlete doesn't have to worry about balls bouncing unevenly.
The popular multisport game court accommodates different net systems, adjustable basketball hoops, and multi-colored basketball, volleyball and tennis lines printed onto tiles that are durable and fade-resistant. Other residential court companies -- like Flex Court and VersaCourt -- have their own proprietary synthetic tile systems.
Cordova estimates at least 20 game options can be played on the multisport court, which can also include badminton, paddle tennis, pickleball, roller hockey, lacrosse and shuffleboard. "Little kids also have a nice, flat surface on which to ride their bikes and scooters," he says. "Falling down on a Sport Court surface is better than taking a tumble on concrete or asphalt -- for both athletes and little ones."
A Sport Court surface comes with a 15-year warranty, according to Cordova, and only requires keeping the surface cleared of tree debris, through the use of a leaf blower or broom. "If a tile should happen to become gouged, the beauty of this modular system is that it can be removed and replaced," he says. "Some homeowners in northern climates create a rink and flood it during winter for ice hockey and skating."
Friendly and familial competition on the court can also be fun for spectators. A home court can serve as a congregating place for those who "got game," and if you build it, folks will come, says Cordova.
"It can be said, the family that plays together, stays together, and good-natured sporting competitions are a way to build closer relationships," he says. "Even though the court surface on which people play games at home has evolved, it's still about creating a field of dreams."
The Home Team
For more information, go to SportCourt.com. For a local dealer, fill in zip code in the "Contact Us" prompt.
(For editorial questions, please contact Clint Hooker at firstname.lastname@example.org.)