Driving up the hill to what looked like a giant white blob, I was struck by the sheer size of this structure I was about to enter, which apparently housed indoor tennis courts. Walking through the revolving door revealed just how large this structure was as it enclosed 6 indoor tennis courts with a beautiful viewing area above. I spent 4 years playing collegiate tennis matches in a bubble and wanted to share some of my thoughts about my experiences, especially now that I work in the indoor tennis industry.
To begin with, I wanted to offer some background information about what exactly a bubble or dome is. Air-supported structures, commonly known as bubbles or domes, are relatively inexpensive and efficient to construct that provide a cheaper alternative to more traditional buildings. These facilities usually are comprised of a single or multi-layered fabric and are supported using air pressure provided by substantial air blowers, which are also used to ventilate and control the climate within the bubble. An air-supported structure guarantees availability of tennis courts not always possible with outdoor courts.
Translucent bubbles offer more than enough natural light during the day to create an optimal tennis-playing environment. At my college’s bubble, the 1,000 Watt Metal Halide fixtures were not even used during the day as the natural light delivered more than enough visibility for collegiate tennis. This allowed for some pretty substantial energy savings for the college as the lights in the bubble wouldn’t have to be turned on until late afternoon, early evening. I really didn’t encounter any negatives with my experiences of playing tennis in the translucent bubble during the day. It was during the night in the bubble where I encountered the greatest challenges to seeing the tennis ball. With the lack of natural light during the night time, the ten 1,000 Watt Metal Halides per tennis court in the bubble did not produce anywhere near enough light appropriate for competitive tennis matches. If I had to guess light levels during the night time, I would have to say they were in the 20’s, maybe even lower. The bubble could have used a number of more indirect light fixtures per court in order to properly light the playing area of the tennis courts.
Lastly, the air-supported structure is a lower cost alternative to more traditional buildings and especially a translucent structure can almost mimic outdoor tennis play with the amount of natural light allowed to pour into the facility. One solution to the lighting challenges faced at night with a translucent dome is an LED Tennis Lighting System. If you have an air-supported structure and would like to discuss what Sports Interiors would specifically recommend for your facility, please visit our website at: www.sportsinteriors.com or call us at 847.892.6956.