On the Surface

Having worked in sports facility development for 30 years – in my role at SAPCA and before that at the LTA – I’ve spent a lot of time helping clubs and talking to them about their projects. It’s always very rewarding to witness schemes come to fruition, though it’s mostly from an arm’s length involvement.

Earlier this year a local netball club, whom my daughter plays for, embarked on a project to resurface its two macadam courts. Lending a hand to the club committee offered me a great opportunity to observe the project from start to finish – and this time from a client’s point of view. It reminded me of some of the most important ingredients in making a project successful.

In the overall scheme of things, the resurfacing of two existing macadam courts, with a budget of under £30,000, may not seem like a very big project. For a small club, however, it represents a major investment. A lot of hard work goes into creating a sinking fund and generating the extra funds needed, so it’s important that the money is spent carefully and that the project produces a facility which will last the next decade.

Whether large or small, every project needs to follow a number of key steps. Choosing the right surface is critical to ensure the desired playing characteristics for the needs of the club. This is true even for unpainted porous macadam. In my daughter’s club’s case, this was done to maximise the likelihood of achieving the slip resistance needed for netball.

Then there’s agreeing the right specification. There are always important choices to be made, and it is vital to ensure, through good communication with the contractor, that it’s fully understood what will (and will not) be included. In resurfacing a block of macadam courts, there are options to consider, such as how to upgrade the edgings and haunchings, the choice of fencing and gates, as well as the type of goalposts and post protectors. Each decision has a cost implication, but it’s important to decide, with the budget available, what represents best value for money.

When selecting a contractor, no prizes for guessing that I would recommend a SAPCA member! Seeing the work taking place – especially the great skill and experience needed in laying the macadam – underlined to me the very specialist nature of sports surface construction. As in any marketplace, there are numerous companies to choose from, but taking the trouble to inspect previous similar work by any contractor under consideration is always time well spent.

When the project is finished and the players take to the court, their assessment of the work will be based not only on the performance of the surface, but also on the look and feel of the upgraded facility. Clubs and other venues are always in competition with each other for members and other users – and people will always be attracted to the best facilities in their area.

Getting a project right doesn’t have to be difficult, but it’s important to take the necessary time and care, with appropriate technical guidance whenever needed, and an attention to detail, to make the right choices.

About Chris Trickey

Chris Trickey is Chief Executive of SAPCA