Contractors are known to go to great lengths to get the job done and satisfy their customers, but what McConnell & Associates and Tennis Services of Iowa did last fall has to be some kind of record.
That's because at the request of California Products Corp., a manufacturer of tennis court surfaces, representatives of both contractors traveled to Australia to assist a local contractor constructing new surfaces for this year's Australian Open, one of the Grand Slam tennis tournaments.
I mean, how much farther can you go to satisfy a client?
Last fall McConnell's Don Hubbard, tennis court superintendent, Jaime Ocampo, foreman, and Dan Treiber, owner of Tennis Services of Iowa, were asked to assist Melbourne's W.M. Loud in resurfacing the courts in time for the 2008 Open. In a normal year Loud's crews would resurface and stripe about 80 tennis courts a year.
"They have a great workforce at Loud, and they do a great job," Hubbard says. "But when they got the contract for the 40 additional courts, and the tight deadline, they wanted a little extra assistance just for insurance."
So Loud contacted California Products Corp., which contacted McConnell and Tennis Services because both are authorized applicators of California Products' material. Hubbard spent six weeks down under assisting Loud's crew, Ocampo worked there eight weeks, and Treiber worked for three weeks. Contractors from India and Singapore also flew in to help, and it all worked out fine as the courts were done in plenty of time for Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova to take home their Australian Open trophies.
Art Tucker, vice president of the recreational product division of California Products Corp., says the job involved more than 40 tennis courts in Sydney, Adelaide, and Melbourne, and eventually required more than 50,000 gallons of the company's Plexi-Cushion material.
"A lot of sealcoating contractors look at that and yawn at 50,000 gallons, but you have to remember this is all being put down in multiple layers on small fenced-in areas requiring a high-level of precision," Tucker says. "These three companies did a great job."
Preparing the surface
"Loud did a great job of paving, and that was all done before we got there," Hubbard says. "We worked basically from the asphalt up, doing some minor patching - filling minor depressions and small birdbaths - before we worked with them to install all the cushion and the color."
Hubbard says that to repair the slight defects they constructed a skin patch, trying to make it as level with the surface as possible. "As most contractors know it's really hard to do skin patches," Hubbard says. "But you just have to take your time and make it neat. High is better than low because you can always grind them off, and it's easier to grind them off than it is to patch."
Once the patch was level the crews applied an acrylic resurfacer to seal it before the tennis court cushion was constructed. "An acrylic material lets the moisture come through a lot better," Hubbard says.
Hubbard says the cushion court surface required by the Australian Open - as well as many private tennis courts in the United States - is constructed of 10 layers. The first layer was the acrylic resurfacer. The other nine layers were made up of three layers with material containing a large-grain rubber are squeegee applied, three coats incorporating a smaller grain rubber follow, and then three finish coats of actual court color without rubber.
"The 10 layers on the Australian Open Courts is not typical of what I do," says Treiber, owner of Tennis Surfaces which employs five people and constructs between 80 and 120 tennis courts a year. "We might do 25 courts just like those, but with the cushion involved in gets pretty expensive. Country clubs and upper-end private courts can afford it, but public access courts, high schools, and park districts can't."
Tucker says the Plexi-Cushion material and Deco-Turf, a similar product produced by California Products, are used throughout the United States on court surfaces at the U.S Open, Northwestern University, the University of Wisconsin, Harvard, and more.