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