Homeowners can build sports courts in their own back yards.
Whatever your favorite sport happens to be, why not build your own private court or field in your back yard?
Basketball and tennis courts, soccer fields, multi-sport facilities that transform into ice rinks come winter — if you dream it, you can build it.
And if all you want is a simple basketball hoop at the end of the driveway, so be it. That’s the usual request that architect Leslie Saul, president and founder of Cambridge, Mass.-based architecture and design firm Leslie Saul & Associates, gets from clients.
“Very ’60s, and still fun for all,” she says.
From a single hoop at the end of the driveway to a full-size basketball court in the back yard, just about anything is possible as long as you have the space, funds, and desire.
If a homeowner has the adequate property size and budget to construct a full-size, 7,200-square foot tennis court, “we typically recommend starting there,” says Ryan Conroy, sales and marketing manager at Woodbury-based Classic Turf Company.
“Tennis courts tend to add the most value to a property depending on the location and quality of construction,” he says, making them desirable features for homeowners and potential home buyers.
Depending on the amount of maintenance you want to commit to, these courts can be built with a variety of materials, including natural or synthetic grass, clay, asphalt, and post-tensioned concrete. Clay courts and hard courts are the most typical requests, according to Conroy.
“Clay courts are softer, slower, and give players the ability to slide on the surface,” he says, but they require the most maintenance to keep the court playable, and there’s a shorter window for play due to the weather.
Hard courts, on the other hand, require the least amount of maintenance, provide a surface for a variety of sports, and can be used into the winter, assuming it’s mild enough to play outside.
When built with post-tensioned concrete — the latest in sport-court building technology — hard courts are virtually maintenance-free after initial construction, Conroy says. Another benefit of building a hard court is flexibility. A full-size, hard tennis court can easily be converted to a multipurpose play area.
“We’ve constructed courts with blended playing lines and portable nets in order for owners to play tennis one day, volleyball the next, badminton, and even pickleball,” Conroy says.
With some extra planning and construction, it’s even possible to turn a multisport court into an ice rink for hockey and skating in the winter, Conroy says. Some homeowners choose basic systems on top of the existing court while others go so far as to install refrigeration systems within the court floor to ensure the ice stays frozen throughout the winter, even on mild days.
Another way to ensure you can use your recreation space year-round is to build it inside. Winters in New England can be long, summers can involve weeklong washouts — and kids and adults alike can go stir-crazy. An indoor sport court promotes play regardless of the forecast.
Saul was tasked with designing an indoor racquetball court for a large family. Adding drop-down basketball hoops turned the space into a multipurpose facility that went on to host all sorts of kid- and teen-sport activities. “Parents could say, ‘Go downstairs and play,’ instead of the proverbial ‘Go outside and play!’” says Saul.
Once you decide what kind of sport court you would like to build on your property, make sure your plans align with your municipality’s zoning regulations.
Speak to your architect, or directly with your town’s zoning department, to determine if your property can accommodate court construction based on lot coverage, minimum setback requirements, and maximum permeable surface coverage, Conroy advises.
If you don’t have the space or desire to commit to building a full-blown, multisport facility in the back yard, there are other options to consider, like bocce courts, horseshoe pits, and even giant chessboards.
For those who wish to exercise the mind as well as their muscles, giant chess is a feature that’s been popular in the resort world for years, and is now catching on with private clients, according to Texas-based artist and designer Pablo Solomon.
Chessboards can vary from large, concrete boards in which each square is 20 inches by 20 inches, to lightweight plastic mats.
“Not so conducive to speed chess, but a great way to relax outdoors,” Solomon concludes.