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Indoor Tennis Court Surfacing for Pittsburgh’s Mellon Dome

mellon dome pickleball courts

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How Action Floors gave a breath of fresh air to a unique, public, five-court tennis complex.

When inflation and deflation are discussed as challenges of project coordination, they’re typically referred to in the economic sense.

But terms are much more literal in the case of “The Bubble”—the local nickname for Pittsburgh’s Mellon Park Tennis Center—featuring an air-supported dome roof. When the city sought to resurface the indoor tennis complex’s five tennis courts in time for its 20-year anniversary, the timeline would be as much of a challenge as maintaining the structure’s air pressure.

“The only access is through turnstile doors. Within 10-15 seconds of using a ‘normal’ door, the roof would start to fall,” said Michael DiNatale, Action Floors’ East Coast sales manager for synthetic flooring systems. “Materials, people, taking out the trash—everything had to go through these doors otherwise the structure would deflate.”

Logistics and planning are important for any project, but this unique situation, as well as the deadline for this high-profile public amenity, meant the “pressure” was on. And Action Floors dealer, Sport Floors, Inc., was up to the task.

“We have a longstanding working relationship with the City of Pittsburgh Parks and Recreation,” said Brent Kelosky, president of Sport Floors. “They are a valued client, and when they were looking to redo this facility, I knew we had the perfect product to offer them and resolve their issues.”

Resurfacing the Old Tennis Courts at Mellon Park

To make sure the structure’s 36-foot roof stayed up, it was a challenge was to coordinate all entrances, exits, load-ins, and haul-outs on the job site. Beyond that ongoing process, the Mellon Park tennis court resurfacing project presented additional specific needs.

“The floor we replaced at the dome was an old sheet vinyl sports surface with a tennis surface, and it was installed over an old acrylic floor surface that was poorly prepped and also delaminating in areas,” said Kelosky of the 20-year-old facility. “It was very dirty, and just overall worn out. The [tennis players] complained frequently about dead spots and soft spots within the playing surface that made consistent play difficult.”

To provide the city of Pittsburgh the best tennis court surfaces possible, the Action team would need to start with the courts’ foundation and work upward.

Tennis Court Foundation Preparation

The key to tennis court renovation lies beneath the courts’ surface, where the team found a surprise: the old surface had been installed on top of two other floors.

“You’re going to find things that you’re not expecting,” said DiNatale regarding renovation projects. “It’s rare to have floors underneath!”

Sport Floors addressed these unforeseen conditions in collaboration with the city of Pittsburgh, taking on the upfront work of removing what were essentially three layers of floors. The next step was to patch and repair the base concrete. This involved addressing dead spots and preparing the area to accept the new tennis court product Sport Floors would install.

“We need a good base, and to make sure the subsurface is right,” said DiNatale. “We’re only as good as what we’re on top of.”

Factors for Selecting the Right Tennis Court Surface

This tennis court resurfacing project needed to account for the following needs:

  • Accommodating high traffic: The Mellon Park Tennis Center is open seven days a week for 13-15 hours a day. The general public is able to reserve court times and sign up for tennis clinics year-round, making The Bubble a popular Pittsburgh amenity. From a sports surface professional perspective, this means it’s subjected to a lot of tennis shoe traffic.
  • Long lasting: Pittsburgh sought to invest in a high-end tennis surface with proper lamination that would last for years without cracking, wearing out, or delaminating.
  • Shock absorbent: The city aimed to improve the athletic comfort provided by the new tennis surface. Citizens of all ages utilize the facility, and Pittsburgh specifically wanted to consider the impact the surface would have on elderly athletes.
  • Multipurpose usability: While the Mellon Park dome would primarily serve the community as a tennis facility, it could be of even greater use. The city saw benefits to potentially diversifying its athletic offerings by seeking a surface which could later be painted and changed into a pickleball court. And following the facility’s temporary usage as a testing site for COVID-19, the goal was for the new surface to be able to accommodate not only lots of foot traffic, but also chairs and tables for non-athletic events.

The Right Surface for Quality Indoor Tennis Courts

Based upon the specific needs for the project, Action Floors and Sport Floors, Inc. recommended the Action Herculan TC Pro 7+2 tennis court surface, featuring a polyurethane (as opposed to the more common acrylic) surface for extended life expectancy and durability. Kelosky said this new surface “solved the issue of the soft spots and delamination they were experiencing.”

As far as getting the cushioning right, DiNatale said Action’s synthetic tennis surface is one of the only systems on the market that has a tested shock absorption number, noting the comfort it provides. Herculan TC/PB Pro can achieve up to 35% shock absorption, achieving a class three (C3) rating per ASTM F2772. Most acrylic coatings won’t achieve a class 1 (C1) rating.

“It’s a padded system. It helps alleviate the hardness of the concrete,” said DiNatale. “The top surface is non-porous and creates a consistent ball bounce which has an excellent ITF rating of “3”

Kelosky further described the project’s additional aesthetic and athletic considerations.

“We also provided them an updated color scheme that is more modern,” said Kelosky. “As part of the project, the client also updated all the tennis equipment, nets, and posts. The overall look of the facility is new, fresh, clean, and modern.”

Indoor Tennis Court Surface Solutions

The stress of project coordination can sometimes feel like the sky is falling—or in this case, like your inflatable roof is caving in. Action Floors is here to help simplify and support your sport flooring and athletic surface needs. We provide expert wisdom and experience, while offering an array of flooring systems to suit your project.

Contact us today to get started!

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