Park district installs plastic tennis courts

Guilford Tennis Center’s 12 traditional courts in Rockford, IL, a sea of faded green and blue marked by patchwork lines, await their long-overdue makeover this summer.

One, though, looks perfect. And, upon closer inspection, different. Because it is.

The Rockford Park District laid a plastic court over one of its deteriorating courts at Guilford. It is an experiment; officials want to see how the surface made by Flex Court Athletics is received before weighing it as an option to replace other courts around town.

“They were originally in LaSalle-Peru but manufactured now in Rockford,” said Laurie Anderson, the Park District’s operational director. “We made a sponsorship partnership for a greatly discounted price. They wanted to have a product featured in their hometown. We’re thinking this could be an option for our neighborhood tennis courts and wanted to get player feedback.”

The court is made of square plastic tiles. Each tile has a pattern of 16 squares by 16 squares, and the court inside the lines is 92 blue tiles long and 52 tiles wide with many more tiles, in green, outside the lines.

The biggest selling point for the Flex Court is it lasts and lasts – and lasts. Freeport installed three plastic courts at Krape Park 20 years ago and they still look brand new.

“The average court, you are redoing it every five to 10 years,” said Freeport High School boys tennis coach Ed Schradermeier. “They’ve done no patch work with those courts. The tiles tend to move, so you just slide them over each year.”

If those were traditional courts, Freeport might have had to replace them twice already. That’s expensive. Jack Carey, Freeport Park District’s executive director,

said it cost $340,000 to replace four traditional courts at Reed Park two years ago.

“The cost savings is tremendous,” Carey said. “Tennis courts are not an easy fix. If you can find an alternative that extends the life of the courts, you have to take a serious look at it.”

The worry is that serious tennis players won’t like it.

“A lot of the better players say they don’t want to play on it, but I personally have never had a problem with it,” said Schradermeier, who is a nine-time Freeport city tennis champion. “Clay courts are different. Indoor courts that are real fast are a little different. Everything is a little different.

“We put competitive matches on those courts over the years and they play out the same way. The person who should win usually wins.”

The courts come in various colors and can also be used for other purposes, such as getting surfaces painted with a 3-point line for basketball.

“I know players have mixed feelings on plastic courts, but with updated technology since the Freeport ones have been put in, it was worth trying,” Anderson said. “It may be the solution for some players, but for others probably not.

“We want to get feedback on it. It might not be for the highest level of competitive play, but it certainly is a possible solution for recreational tennis to be played and for kids to be introduced to the sport.”- by Matt Trowbridge, Sunday Telegram (Massachusetts)