Winter is finally over, and spring is here. Members are excited to get outside and be able to enjoy our outdoor courts. Every year we are asked the same question, “When will the clay courts be open?” Our goal is to get them open and available for play as soon as we can. To accomplish this, there is a chain of events that needs to happen before members are playing matches.
First, we need to get the irrigation system for the clay courts started up and checked over to ensure it is working properly and repairs don’t need to be made. This requires the frost to be completely out of the ground and overnight air temperatures to be high enough to prevent backflow preventers, sprinkler heads, and the water line from freezing.
Once the sprinkler system is operational, we will work with Tennis West out of the twin cities to get the courts top dressed. Topdressing the courts again requires some help from Mother Nature as the courts need to have the right amount of moisture. Once we get the right conditions, the Tennis West crew will use around 30,000 pounds of new clay to top-dress the courts.
The RAC facilities team will then take over the courts, watering and rolling the clay. We will also drop windscreens and put up canopies after the courts are top-dressed because if we do it beforehand, the clay dust will leave everything green. Ideally, we will wait about a week for Tennis West to return and nail down the vinyl lines that make up each court, as the nails will hold better once the clay has stiffened up. However, it can be done a day or two later, depending on weather and schedules.
After this step, the courts will be ready for member use and completely in the hands of our facilities staff at the RAC. Every day the courts require about 3 hours of maintenance to keep them playable. The courts need to be swept and lined three times a day and watered twice a day to keep them smooth and moist. If the courts lose their moisture, the dried-out clay can be blown off by the wind, and the base layer will start to break up.
This year (2021), we hope to begin this process the first week of April as the warmer temperatures look like they are here to stay.
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