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More competition: Lower quality?

As the economy continues its seismic shifts, the sports facility construction industry is scrambling to keep up. Tennis court contractors were quoted in the November/December 2010 issue of Racquet Sports Industry Magazine* as saying their workflow had been disrupted in two ways. A shortage of jobs was no surprise, but the increase in competition was unforeseen.

"We suddenly started seeing so many more bidders on tennis court projects than ever before," says Steve Wright of Trans Texas Tennis Ltd. (Houston, TX). "These were for projects that in the past, tennis court builders would exclusively have been bidding on. That's been a huge shift and it's certainly that way today. Even multi-million-dollar general contractors are bidding on these tennis court projects. Before, they never would have bothered with them."

While normally, competition is the sign of a healthy marketplace, this economy has created conditions that are far from normal. The problem with the increasing number of bidders at the table, say sports facility contractors, is that few of those bidders actually understand the sport of tennis (or of track and field, or of soccer), and fewer still know how to build a facility correctly.

"It's not just the tennis court industry either," says Carvin Pallenberg (Riteway Crack Repair LLC, Guilford, CT). "It's everywhere. There are people out there saying they can stripe a track or build a field, and they don't know how."

The wrong decision comes back to haunt the facility owner, according to George Todd (Welch Tennis Courts Inc. in Sun City, FL). "Im seeing people make some fairly good-sized mistakes from the standpoint of design. Its going to be hard for the owner to come up with the budget twice: once to get the project built and once to get someone to fix all the things that are wrong with it."

The real victim in the equation, the contractors say, is not just the sports facility specialist; it's the customer who gets a substandard facility. Incorrect construction, surfacing and marking can render a facility ineligible for competition, but more importantly, it can be dangerous to athletes.

According to contractors, consumers who are going for a low bid should still consider carefully all the information they receive. An unexpectedly low figure should be a red flag.

"If you see a few people saying a job is going to cost something like $250,000," says Pallenberg, "and then you have one guy saying he can do it for $25,000, you should at least sit down and talk to each person and find out what someone is saying they can do for you for $250,000, and what someone is saying they can do for $25,000. If they're promising the same thing, you know there's something wrong. The question is how we make sure people out there are asking the right questions."


2011 American Sports Builders Association 

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