Covering your sports court can bring a whole host of benefits. It can protect athletes from the elements while they train, keep spectators shaded and even create a multi-space that can be used for other activities, like outdoor learning or community events. No one wants to call off a netball game because of the rain or end up sunburnt after playing basketball outside – a sports court cover provides shelter, but can also support extra amenities like fans, lighting, sound and scoreboards to elevate the space.
However, with many different types of covers available it can be tricky to know what’s right for your needs. From fabric membrane to steel roofing, shade sails and a whole range of different shapes, you may wonder what’s right for your project. Whether you’re a school or sports club, it’s important to consider your approach carefully to create the best outcome with minimal disruption to the courts’ surface.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for shade and shelter structures – each project is unique. What works best will depend on project factors like cost, location and aesthetics. The best option is the one that meets your needs.
So, what should you consider? First, think about why you need the structure – this influences which material and design will be suitable. It may be to add extra all-weather space for your school, somewhere for outdoor learning or to ensure sports games can be played all year round.
Maybe you experience especially hot conditions that make it difficult to spend long periods of time outside in the sun. Covering your sports court can do all these things – the type of structure and its materials will help meet your needs.
To start, it’s important to understand the different types of structures and their benefits. There are three main materials available.
The vast majority of sports court covers aim to add protection from all weather conditions, including sun and rain. This typically adds the most value as it means you can use it all year round for a variety of purposes, including training, playing matches and even community events. We recommend adding all-weather cover as most locations experience some rainfall and benefit from the extra wet-weather space.
Here are the three main structure types to consider:
These are often also referred to as COLAs (covered outdoor learning areas) and are made of colorbond steel. Steel roofing was often the default choice in the past due to its strength and durability – these structures can last up to 50 years if properly maintained. They provide all-weather cover to keep sports courts shaded from harsh UV rays and sheltered from rain. Metal has the added benefit of being easier to add sound insulation, useful for noisy areas (just think of those loud whistles!).
Steel structures are well-suited to cover sports courts however do have some limitations. They have little light transmission which means skylight panels will need to be added and potentially electrical lighting. While colorbond steel comes in a broad range of colours, these structures allow for less flexibility in terms of design.
Also known as PVC or tensile membrane, these are made from a lightweight material (PVC or PTFE) that allows for a high amount of light transmission while still offering protection from the elements. These structures have all-weather protection, making them a great choice to cover a sports court.
Fabric membrane roofs can be made to fit any roof shape or size, making them ideal for sports spaces that require a unique design. These are usually birdproof by nature, helping to avoid annoying messes or additional maintenance costs. Despite being a lightweight material, fabric membrane is robust and can withstand high winds and harsh UV rays for decades.
Shade cloth is used for shade applications. This is built either as traditional shade sails or what’s called a hip and ridge structure for larger structures, which has a hipped frame with fabric stretched over it to create a roof.
Given the scale of a sports court cover it’s unusual to only add shade, however shade can be a useful addition to a sports court cover – for example, around the perimeter to add more sun protection.
There are many different ways to cover a sports court. When it comes to design, what’s important is that it fits the aesthetic you want to achieve. For example, you may want to create an eye-catching structure that stands out. On the other hand, you may want this cover to match existing buildings nearby – like a school hall or COLA.
So what’s best for each structure type?
More and more covers these days also allow for grandstands or a space for spectators to sit – making sure they benefit from the all-weather cover too!
While the style of structure is highly variable, what is important is its height. It’s a balancing act between adding enough weather protection while still having enough height for the sport. Think of how high a ball might be thrown – no one wants them constantly hitting the roof.
For competition courts, regulation heights are defined within the standards for sports like netball, basketball, tennis and badminton.
For high schools or general purpose, it’s best to allow 5m minimum at the edges and 7-10m in the centre. This is because more height is needed in the middle of a court where most of the game is played. Remember, if the sides are too high you risk rain blowing in.
Primary schools require less height for their structures – 4m is the sweet spot, but no lower than 3m.
When covering a sports court cover, it’s important to not just think about your new structure but also what it’s covering. If you have any kind of surfacing, like coating, fake grass or cushioning, bear in mind that you’ll need surface protection so machinery can drive onto it to build.
This doesn’t change the timeline of the build but adds cost and labour. Depending on the lifecycle of your surface, it may be worth bringing forward any resurfacing to align with the build and minimise the risk of damage.
Of course, at Greenline we work hard to minimise any risk and keep your surfaces safe, however if a surface is near the end of its life it’s worth considering.
Sometimes you may want additional features to improve the use of your sports courts, like lighting, sound or even scoreboards. These can be added to almost all structure types, although if you’re considering a roof-mounted basketball hoop or netting this may impact your design.
Thinking about covering your sports court? The good news is you don’t have to figure it out on your own – there are plenty of experts to guide you through the process and find the right option for your project. At Greenline, we have more than 25 years of experience building shade and shelter structures across Australia.
To chat more about getting the right fit for your sports court, contact us.