Comfort Zones: Design that Enhances Player and Fan Experiences
Your tennis facility's design should enhance the player and fan experiences - and can help grow the sport
Well-designed tennis courts go beyond the playing surface. Thinking about your tennis facility holistically – whether indoor or outdoor – can improve the experience for players, coaches, instructors, and spectators.
In an ongoing effort to increase tennis participation, tennis providers need to both attract new people to the sport and retain the players we have. Well-designed facilities can be a part of this solution. Attracting young people to the sport means catering not only to existing players, but also to their families, who are often spending an extended amount of time at your facility in support of an athlete. Making that experience a positive one through design and amenities should be a part of an outreach strategy for your facility and even the sport at large.
A well-designed facility can help with recruiting to improve enrollment in your school, academy, camp or club. Better design and amenities can attract high-caliber tournaments and other events to your facility, potentially providing an additional source of revenue that offsets upgrade investment.
People enjoy spending time in well-designed spaces. When you are thinking about making improvements to your facility, consider some of these features, which can make a positive impact on your own tennis community.
Signage and Branding
Instill pride in the home team and increase awareness of your organization through signage. The most common applications of a brand are on the back fence line and in between courts on the surface.
Good signage can also help customers find their way around and give a positive impression of your facility to a visitor. If events at your well-branded facility are featured on social or traditional media, the visibility can generate more interest in your facility and even in the sport itself.
Seating and Viewing
Seating needs at your facility will vary based on the level and type of competition. If you have hopes of hosting high-profile tournaments or invitationals, an investment in seating can make your facility more attractive.
Benches and bleacher seats are among the most common seating options selected at the community and secondary school level due to their lower cost. Stadium seats have a cost premium, but they bring the whole facility to a higher level. Fans appreciate the increase in comfort, and the improvements to the spectator experience could result in a boost in morale for the players as well.
While personal preferences vary, most casual spectators find the ideal location for seating to be behind the baseline rather than along the sideline. If seating behind the baseline is not an option, look for other ways to increase the quality of seating along the sidelines.
Fence heights need to be considered in conjunction with seating placement. High fences behind the baseline, when combined with wind screens, further build a case for an elevated seating area. Along the sidelines, 4-foot-high fences have long been the standard, but this height often places the top bar at the spectator sight line. Lowering the side fence to 2.5 to 3 feet is a new trend for courts with sideline viewing.
Regardless of the type of seating, fans and other players can better enjoy spectating from an elevated viewing area. Raised seating set above the fence is worth considering for many reasons: it is also a great location for filming players to utilize as a teaching tool.
How the courts are laid out has an impact on those who are watching. Individual courts have long been popular at private clubs, offering a more intimate playing experience for individual matches.
In team settings, such as a college tennis facility, a center spine layout provides benefits to coaches, players and spectators. Coaches and instructors are better able to keep an eye on progress of drills or matches. Spectators can track multiple matches, and players may benefit from feeling connected to teammates.
Players, fans and instructors desire many of the same amenities at a tennis facility: shade, access to water fountains and bathrooms, and tournament information boards are some basic amenities to consider.
Shade can be natural – in the form of trees planted on the site; built-in to the design of the facility – such as an area underneath an elevated viewing platform; a stand-alone structure – like a pavilion; or a temporary solution – like a table umbrella.
Designing shaded spaces for players and coaches requires consideration of its location relative to where play is occurring, and proximity to water and bathrooms. Deciding if the shade is for breaks during a match or a place to relax between games also helps determine how many people it should cover. Fans may be on site for an entire day watching matches, so providing options for shade in or near the seating areas is essential to their enjoyment and comfort.
A basic tournament information board is helpful for players and spectators. It should be in a centralized location that is accessible and readable. If you host large events that draw players from outside the area, consider including information that extends beyond the court, such as information about the community, including local attractions that can enhance the holistic visitor experience.
Facilities that host a high level of competition should consider a scoreboard to add to the fan experience. Often, these facilities also feature a sound system, which has many benefits. If you host large-scale instruction, camps or teams, a sound system can help communicate drills and timing to all players across your courts at the same time. Playing music between drills or matches can motivate players and inject fun for fans as well.
When it comes to picking a location to host tournaments, whether for high schools, universities or even large USTA-sanctioned events, decisions are not made solely based on the quality of the courts themselves. Officials also consider spectator seating and viewing, player and spectator comfort, amenities available and other factors. A well-designed site and facility play into these considerations.
Want to learn more?Reach out to one of our design professionals
Tim Gerrits leads our Sports practice and has combined a background in landscape architecture with a passion for sports and competition. With over 25 years of experience, Tim has designed more than 45 tennis facilities, including over 175 post-tensioned concrete courts.
© 2019 GMB Architecture + Engineering