Steven Polli's outdoor squash court by Faraz Hussain

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Steven Polli's outdoor squash court

By Faraz Hussain

Steven Polli has successfully built an outdoor (roofless and concrete) squash court in Burlington Vermont. The court plays perfectly and is both maintenance free and vandal-proof! The court serves as a successful precedent for future such courts to be built across the USA.

I had the chance to speak with him on the phone for an hour about building the $60,000 court. Steven was very helpful and provided many details for how to undertake such a project.

The court is in Burlington, Vermont with a population of 120,000. There are already 4 squash courts there (2 hardball, 2 20' converted). The courts serve around 50 squash players. Steven's motivation for building an outdoor court was his desire to be outdoors in the summer time. He loves squash but hates to be indoors playing the game when the outside weather is warm and sunny.

Steven approached his Park district in 1998 to build the court. They were reluctant to fund the expensive project both for lack of funds as well as general ignorance of what squash is. They agreed to give Steven the land in a public park to build the court if he could raise the money himself. They also agreed to pay for lighting once it was completed.

Steven's first task was to raise $18,000 to pay for materials. Since he owns his own construction company, the labor would be free. Otherwise labor for the project would cost $42,000, making the total cost $60,000.

Steven asked local squash players, charity funds and squash manufacturers for money. He had a minimum donation amount of $500. Many people volunteered to donate $100, but Steven could not accept their donation out of fairness for those who donated $500 or more. Black Knight's distributor, Bob Morgan, enthusiastically gave $500.

Having raised the capital for material, the next step was to start building the court. The excavator had to dig 4.5 feet below the ground due to Vermont's deep permafrost layer. The front wall in squash is 15 ft high, but Steven's went to 16'. This makes the total height of the concrete wall 20.5 feet if you include the 4.5 ft below the ground. The concrete was poured in two stages. First an 8 ft pour then a 12 ft pour.

The walls are 10 inches thick. The side wall slope down to seven feet and the backwall is 4 ft high. Steven wanted people to be able to watch the game from the outside, which is why he kept the back-wall only 4' high. Also in the future you can add a 3 ft high glass back-wall to it. There is also 4 ft high netting around the court to catch lose balls. Without the netting one would have to walk a few hundred feet to go and find your ball!

The concrete floor has the same texture as a wooden floor. It is not too grippy, thereby making it easier on the joints. In fact Steven feels the court is no more demanding on the knees and joints then a wooden floored court.

The front wall faces North to avoid playing into the sun. The court is vandal-proof. The walls are painted with a special polyurethane paint that is grafitti proof. If graffiti is sprayed on it, then there is a lacquer solvent you can use to erase the graffitti.

The court does have a light, that remains on till 10 PM. Unfortunately the lights are not bright enough to play in. Halogen type lamps would have been more effective.

The court is virtually maintenance free except for painting it. The floor is sloped 1/8 inch for every foot from the back to front. This allows the water to drain through two holes in the front corners. Players can not tell the floor is sloped. One does have to bring a broom to sweep the floor before you play. In the winter times, they just let the snow sit there.

Steven claims you can play even in the dead of winter. In fact he was able to get the ball warmed up and lively in freezing temperatures! People have asked, " How many months can you use the court"? Basically you can use the court slightly longer than you can use a tennis court. In squash your body warms up to a much higher temperature than tennis, so you will not freeze playing in cooler tempratures.

Because the court is built on city property it had to be engineered to be struturally sound. Steven designed the walls for 90 mph wind loads.

Steven has had good success with the court and has not had any problems with it. Some graffitti was sprayed inside it which he was easily able to erase. Due to his busy schedule, he has not been able to promote the court to more people in Burlington or organize tournaments. He feels that someone with some enthusiasm and time could easily use the court to spread the game to more people. My recommendation to Steven was to post flyers of around the court. This way people can always find a partner to play with online.

If anyone wants to build an outdoor court, Steven highly recommends that you contact him first. He can come to your city and serve as an advisor for the project or build it for you himself.

Steven also has an idea for some kit-courts he could build in people's houses. The construction would be an aluminium frame around cinder blocks with plastic panels and plastic floors. The cost would be $60,000.

Steven has done some great work for squash by building this unique outdoor court. To his knowledge it is the only one of its kind in the world. Greg Brooksbank in Minnessotta has built an outdoor court of plywood with 3/4" thick walls at a cost of $10,000. However, the court require major repairs every few years and is not permanent.

The court should serve as a successful precedent for future outdoor courts to be built. Certainly outdoor courts are a great way to expand the game to more people. Steven encourages anyone around the world to make the trip to play on it. He guarantees you will be sold immeadietely!

Steven can be reached at ( backwards ): aol dt com, spolli007 or through his website, Polli Construction Questions?
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