Bunk posted this article several weeks ago. It explains why they don't use tarps. Thanks again, Bunk.
Higher Technology for Drier Courts to Prevent a Rain-Soaked Repeat
By CLIFTON BROWN
Published: August 30, 2004
One of the lasting images from last year's United States Open is of employees on their hands and knees frantically wiping the saturated show courts with white towels. After heavy rainfall forced numerous delays and wreaked havoc with the match schedule, the United States Tennis Association will rely on new machines to dry the courts faster and shorten rain interruptions.
To decrease the damper caused by the rain, the U.S.T.A. has turned to advanced technology: electrically powered court-drying machines, 38 in all, will be used for the first time at the tournament. Several days after last year's tournament, a committee led by Arlen Kantarian, the U.S.T.A.'s chief executive for professional tennis, began exploring ways to enhance the tournament's rain-removal procedure.
"We looked at the N.F.L., Nascar, golf courses, highway departments - as many people as we could think of to see if anything they did could be applied to us," said Chris Widmaier, the U.S.T.A.'s senior director of public relations.
Eventually, the tennis association settled on machines that look like modified ride-on lawn mowers.
"It's our version of the Zamboni machine," Widmaier said. "Of course, this will be the year we have no rain, but we're prepared if there is."
Capable of holding up to 30 gallons of water, the machines were specifically designed to absorb water at the National Tennis Center. They sponge and vacuum the courts simultaneously, making gentle turns to avoid damaging the playing surface.
"We felt we owed it to the fans on site, the fans watching around the world, and to our players, to get our players back on the court as quickly as possible," Widmaier said. "We expect to save up to 10 minutes each time there's a delay. Over the course of the tournament, that can add up to a substantial amount of time."
Many water-removal options were considered, but the tennis center presented some special challenges. Machines that blew hot air could not be used because they could damage the court. And any machinery had to conform to city ordinances.
"Because of fire department codes, we cannot keep much gas on the premises, so we had to look at electrically powered or battery-operated machines," Widmaier said. "And the machines had to be narrow enough to get through the narrow entrances and exits."
Several tarp systems for covering the courts were also considered, but the U.S.T.A. decided that tarps were not as effective as water-removal machines.
Standing water does not take long to remove from the courts, but the bigger problem is caused by water that collects underneath the playing surface. Once the courts become saturated with water, covering the courts with a tarp does not solve the main problem. Removing the tarp also takes time, a process that becomes longer in windy conditions.
Some blowers will still be used, as will ball people with towels, to assist the machines drying the courts. The new machines, however, should allow workers to dry courts more effectively, no matter how many matches are in progress.
"We're going to be able to do seven courts simultaneously with these machines," Widmaier said. "In the early portions of the tournament, if even more courts are in use, some of the labor that used to be tied up will be freed up. The machines will not only decrease the time it takes to dry a specific court, it also frees up the labor to attack more courts simultaneously."
Many factors contributed to making 2003 a particularly bad-weather Open - heavy rainfall, high humidity, consistent cloud cover and below-normal temperatures. It rained for four consecutive days, Sept. 1 through Sept. 4, and almost any rain during that period led to a stoppage of play because the courts were saturated.
Obviously, U.S.T.A. officials are hoping for better luck with the weather this year, but regardless of what happens, they feel better equipped to deal with it.
"This is a first step, but it's not necessarily a final step," Widmaier said. "We will continue to look at other possibilities moving forward, but we had to make a decision on what new procedure we would use this year. This system is definitely faster and more efficient."