Building a Concrete Skatepark on an Old Tennis Court

When it comes to building a public skatepark a lot of park managers begin to look at underutilized park space around the city. An old tennis court or an old basketball court can sometimes make a perfect spot to place a skatepark. The great thing about finding a location like this is the park usually has lighting, parking, restrooms, a water fountain, etc.

Typically, when a city installs a skatepark on top of an old tennis court they go the route of purchasing modular equipment, and placing modular equipment on the old tennis court surface. The companies who manufacture modular equipment encourage this because it allocates more funds for their equipment. At SPS, we strongly recommend against this route. Through years of field research we have documented numerous cases of tennis court surfaces deteriorating once it’s used as a skatepark. Although we have seen some tennis courts hold up to skateboarding you never know until people start skating on it.

This photo shows the deterioration of an old tennis court after modular ramps where installed.

The surface damage in this photo shows an unsafe condition for a skatepark. Skateboard wheels can get caught in a hole like this causing the skateboarder to fall.

Typically the damage happens in the landing area where the skateboarder comes off the rail.

When you think about building a skatepark think about the Total Costs of Ownership (TCO). Modular ramps are built with materials such as steel, composite plastic, fiberglass and wood. These materials will have to be replaced at some point. If you are installing a skatepark on an old tennis court surface, then consider the potential costs of patching the surface. Maybe even removing the ramps and putting down a new surface.

Our recommendation is to do it right the first time. In the last five years, skatepark design and construction has changed drastically. There are more vendors building concrete skateparks, than vendors providing modular equipment. If your city is thinking of installing a skatepark on an old tennis court, then concrete is definitely an option. In this article, we will show you a step by step on three different concrete skateparks built on an old tennis court.

The Skate Plaza

The term Skate Plaza is used to refer to a skatepark which features ‘street terrain’. Basically, designers will replicate street spots which skaters are already using and incorporate them into the skatepark. The Skate Plaza makes a great option for an old tennis court because the design will feature more flat areas, ledges, banks and handrails. This gives the designer the option of building up instead of in-ground.

This shows the design for a Skate Plaza. The entire park is built above ground and all the features are built out of concrete.

Once you have worked with a professional skatepark designer, and you have taken all drainage, permitting and engineering issues into consideration. Then it is time to start construction.

In this situation, the engineer determined it would be best to remove the existing tennis court surface.

Tennis court surface removal.

The next step is bringing in fill dirt and start the process of shaping the Skate Plaza.

This photo shows the placement and compaction of the fill dirt.

The form work and rebar are critical in making the Skate Plaza a success.

Wooden form work and rebar. Ready for concrete.

The next step is installing the concrete. Notice how all the skate features such as ledges and banks are poured first, then the flat areas are poured.

This photo shows the concrete flat pours.

In the end, this project cost only $100,000 dollar for design, engineering and construction. In this situation, the pre-compacted sub grade cut back on engineering costs. The existing lighting from the old tennis courts cut back on lighting cost. And last but not least, the Skate Plaza design replicates the concrete features skateboarders are riding in the street. This along with all the features being done in concrete will make it a much longer lasting successful facility.

The 6000 square foot Skate Plaza completed.

 

The Neighborhood Skatepark (Styrofoam Fill)

The typical neighborhood skatepark is in between 5,000 to 10,000 sq ft. in size. A traditional skatepark design will feature some of the same street terrain found in a ‘skate plaza’, but will also have more traditional features like quarterpipes, halfpipes and bowls.

The neighborhood style skatepark will work great on an old tennis court. Plus there are unique ways of building a concrete skatepark by using foam as the sub grade instead of fill dirt.

In this situation, the engineer determined that the existing tennis court surface did not have to be removed. This allows the contractor to build directly on top of the old tennis court. The process starts by cutting the Styrofoam to shape and placing it on the court surface.

The Styrofoam structures are put into place.

The entire coarse is built out of Styrofoam.

The next step is installing rebar around the Styrofoam structures and building the forms to hold the concrete.

The Styrofoam is tied in rebar and the forms are built to hold the concrete.

The next step is the concrete installation. All of the features and flat bottom are poured in new concrete, and the existing tennis court surface has been covered up. Again this is an all concrete skatepark which is going to last much longer than modular equipment, and the unique design gets away from the “cookie cutter” feel you get with a modular park.

This is the completed 6000 square foot facility.

The completion of this park only costs $115,000 dollars. This is not a bad option for upgrading an underutilized tennis court into a neighborhood skatepark.

The Skate Plaza features street terrain like this hubba ledge.

 

The Regional Skatepark

The last two examples featured smaller parks covering one tennis court, but we have also seen cities building regional style skateparks using an old tennis court. A regional style skatepark is categorized around 10,000 to 15,000 sq ft. Obviously, a regional park is designed for a bigger crowd.

In this example, not only do with include street features, but we also include an above ground concrete bowl.

Martinez Park started construction in 2009. The goal was to replace two old tennis courts with a new skatepark and also do other ADA site improvements around the park. Initially, the city had planned to use modular ramps on top of the old tennis court, but after holding several public input meetings it was obvious that skaters wanted an all concrete park.

The old tennis courts at Martinez Park definitely needed some cleaning up. Since the tennis courts were deteriorated beyond use, the park no longer attracted as many visitors. As a result, the park had a reputation for criminal activity.

The Martinez Park tennis courts were in poor condition and not attracting many users to the park.

The city worked with a design team to convert  the old tennis courts into a regional skatepark. The skaters really wanted a bowl and since the park had a history of criminal activity the  police wanted visibility.

The problem with doing a bowl was going to be drainage. The flat surface surrounding the tennis courts did not have enough elevation change to drain an enclosed bowl. So the design team came up with a half bowl where one side was not enclosed and leading out of the bowl they designed ditch like embankments to handle the drainage. The bowl section of the park would be built at a higher grade, so water could flow down the ditch and out of the park.

If you look at the design you will notice how one end of the park tapers down with two ditch like embankments. This was also designed to make the park more visible from the street, so a patrol unit could drive by and see to the back of the bowl. The design team did not want any berms blocking visibility into the park.

The conceptual design for Martinez Park

The next step was removing the existing top surface off the old tennis court.

The first step is removing the top of the tennis court.

After that road base fill was brought in to start shaping the bowl.

Road base is used to shape the bowl and the other obstacles.

Once the base is properly compacted and the forms are set, then it's time to pour concrete.

In this situation, the contractor poured the bowl first since that is the more challenging pour. A shotcrete pump was used to install the concrete in the bowl. We strongly recommend using an experience skatepark contractor when pouring a bowl.

After the construction was completed the city removed the old fence and was able to get the existing tennis court lights to work. Here is what the park looked like once construction was finished…

The newly completed skatepark.

Today the transformed park attracts families and hundreds of skateboarders on a daily basis. The influx of young people and families has kept the bad element out of the park.

Local skaters test out the concrete.

Martinez Park is a perfect example of how an underutilized space can be converted into a lively park with a new user group. This regional skatepark is 10,000 sq ft. and costs around $300,000 dollars to design and build along with other park site improvements.

Conclusion

When you are siting a skatepark in your community underutilized park amenities like an old tennis court or an old basketball court can make a great spot for a skatepark. However, there are two important factors. One make sure you have the proper site with plenty of visibility and it’s easily accessible to the youth. The next factor is a very important factor, and that is the design and the construction. Make sure you are working with a professional skatepark design/build team that specializes in custom concrete construction. Not only will this give you a long lasting quality skatepark, it will also provide you with a unique park that will challenge the youth and teach them to respect the park.