Today, we are seeing an evolutionary movement toward professional designed and constructed facilities. And while the sport is attracting more and more players from the generations x and y, it is the baby boomers who are flocking to the courts in droves, and driving the fastest growing sport in America.
The days of pickleball players being satisfied with temporary lines taped on a gym floor at the local recreation center or lines hand-drawn or spray-painted
on a tennis court or playground in the local park are fading fast. More and more, communities are looking to build stand-alone pickleball facilities for their residents.
When choosing a proper surface for pickleball there are a number of factors to consider. Player comfort, traction, color, safety, and ball bounce are a few that come to mind. To me, first and foremost is ball bounce. Unlike other paddle and racquet sports, the weight and rebound-effect of a pickleball is less than others. In fact, a pickleball weighs less than half of what a tennis ball weighs and the rebound-effect of the plastic ball is much less than rubber balls used in other sports. For the success of the sport, it
is imperative that court owners install surfacing systems that allow for the ball bounce heights needed to enjoy the game at a high level.
With more than 75% of the total players being over 55 years of age, the need for “softer” hard courts will be the next positive movement for the sport. Since its invention in 1968 by California Sports Surfaces, cushioned acrylic courts have become the desired surface in sports such as tennis, badminton, and basketball. In fact, both the U.S. Open and Australian Open play their national tennis championships on cushioned acrylic courts.
The real advantage of cushioned acrylic courts is felt by the players, and in particular, their lower back and legs after playing a few hours. Depending on the system you chose, cushioned acrylic systems can reduce the impact forces on a player’s body by 5 - 25% ... and having played 3 or 4 hours straight with pickleball players throughout the country, that added comfort is a blessing when you roll out of bed the next morning!
Cushioned acrylic courts are formed by mixing finely ground rubber granules with flexible binders and layering these mixtures onto the asphalt or concrete below. They are then topped with a wide variety of colors and line paint to form the surfacing system. Cushion systems can range in thickness from 1/8" to 1/2" depending on the type and amount of force reduction desired. Independent testing has shown that these systems provide a nearly identical ball bounce to courts without the cushioning systems. In fact, a few of the courts used at the 2015 USAPA National Championships in Casa Grande, AZ, were cushioned acrylic courts. The next time you are ready to resurface your existing courts, or if you are looking to build a new facility, the inclusion of cushion should be considered... and trust me, your players will thank you for investing in their comfort and longevity.