Roller Skates damage Tennis Courts? -
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post #1 of 5 (permalink) Old 12-02-2009, 05:41 PM Thread Starter
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Question Roller Skates damage Tennis Courts?

I'm interested in a strictly intellectual conversation regarding the issue below. If you are going to flame me, trash talk on skating or hockey, or otherwise try to act like some internet bad-ass, don't bother posting. Moderators, I hope you would remove posts of that type. I'm a mechanical engineer, so I'd like to hear from the "nerds" (for lack of a better term) on this message board. That being said...

The issue of roller skates damaging tennis courts has been on my mind for the past couple of months.

I live in the city (Pittsburgh to be exact) and all the rinks to practice skating (roller or ice) are outside the city in the suburbs or rural areas (at least 15 to 30 minute car rides). I don't have a car, so the few rinks that are within city bus limits are at least 1.5 to 2 hour bus rides (Pittsburgh has a great bus system so you can get pretty much anywhere in the city and surrounding suburbs/towns without a car). So because of this, I turn to tennis courts and basketball courts within walking distance. Most of the tennis courts in Pittsburgh are in absolutely stunning condition, they make for smooth roller blading surfaces. Basketball courts tend to be more abrasive (higher coefficient of friction, etc etc). The benefit of tennis courts over most basketball courts is the fact that it is enclosed so I can practice passing and shooting without having to chase the hockey ball off the court.

I have the utmost respect for tennis players' right to play on the tennis courts. After all, they are called tennis courts for a reason. If there is an open court, I will ask all the tennis players present if they mind if I skate. Almost always they say they don't mind, and we live in perfect harmony. All is (usually) good.

Currently, it is 45 degrees Fahrenheit in Pittsburgh, not exactly tennis-playing weather. I just recently started going to a large city park that has two tennis surfaces - one with 6 courts and the other with 7 courts (Schenley Park if you are familiar with the area). It's awesome. The courts are clean and completely smooth. There's plenty of space for me to pick up a lot of speed and to practice stick handling.

Yesterday, I was at aforementioned Schenley Park. When I arrived, there were two kids playing tennis. I asked if I could skate on the side opposite from where they were playing, and they said yes. There is a running track right next to the tennis courts. After skating around for about 15 minutes, someone running around the track said the following to me: "Please, sir, as a tennis player I request that you do not skate on the tennis courts." I approached him (I was pretty far away when he yelled that over to me) and I asked him why I could not skate. He said that it "damages the courts" and that there is "a sign posted here, and if you read it, it says that you can't roller skate." I asked him how it damages the courts, and he replied that he "didn't want to get into the physics of it." Being an engineer, I wanted to ask him to explain to me the "physics behind it", but he was very polite and I was tired, so I didn't bother. He then tried to stress the importance of the sign, but I stopped him and said I'd leave. The sign is simply a piece of sheet metal with paint on it, it does nothing to support his claim that roller blades damage tennis courts. I left disappointed and unsatisfied of his reasons for me to leave.

I returned home and started researching the subject to a considerable degree. I attemped many Google queries, and I found many websites (mainly sites about public parks) stressing the claim that roller skates damage tennis courts, but they supplied no proof. This issue is clearly NOT well-documented.

As far as I can see, skating on the tennis courts doesn't do any more damage than someone playing tennis on the courts. I weigh 200 lbs. The same amount of energy is going to be transferred from my foot to the surface of the court whether I am wearing roller blades or sneakers. The wheels on my skate are made of rubber, same as sneakers. Sneakers cushion your foot as you plant it on the ground, but it is not as if the energy is being dissipated in the form of heat or something. The sole of the sneaker will impart the same amount of energy to the court as the wheels on a roller skate.

The only thing I can think of are the marks I leave on the court. These marks are composed of dirt, dust, and a very small percentage of the rubber on my wheels. They get washed away with the elements (rain, snow, wind, etc), so even an argument for strictly the cosmetic look of a court is moot.

I looked up tennis courts on Wikipedia, and I read what I already knew about asphalt courts - they are coated with some kind of paint/sand mixture. Perhaps I am gradually wearing down this surface by skating on it.

Please help me understand the logic behind this notion that roller skates damage tennis courts. I came to these message boards thinking that this would be the best place to ask this type of question (plenty of tennis players, plenty of intellectuals). I'm not trying to be some kind of nuisance. Thanks for reading.
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post #2 of 5 (permalink) Old 12-02-2009, 06:50 PM
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Re: Roller Skates damage Tennis Courts?

You can try to tell me that a sneaker sole is just as hard as a roller skate wheel, but I'm not buying it, I'd sure as hell rather get hit in the face with a sneaker than a roller skate wheel.

Here's an experiment, take a sneaker and smack your car with it, then take a roller skate and smack your car with it, do you see any difference? Try it on the windshield. Maybe try it on something painted, like your walls. I'm guessing the roller skate is gonna start chipping the paint away a lot faster than the sneaker does, but I'm no engineer.
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post #3 of 5 (permalink) Old 12-02-2009, 08:12 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Roller Skates damage Tennis Courts?

I don't appreciate the snide comment, but you're absolutely right, the hardness of a skate wheel is much greater than that of the sole of a sneaker. So, what you're saying is the skate wheel is more abrasive to the fine sand/paint surface on the court? The coating on the court is the whole issue?

If tennis courts didn't have this special coating on the surface, it would be just asphalt. The hardness of the asphalt would be so great that it wouldn't matter what rubber compound the skate wheels were made out of, it wouldn't matter if you were running with sneakers or striding with skates, the asphalt would hold up to any abuse short of smacking it with a hammer. The constant temperature changes, rain, and snow would beat the hell out of the asphalt more than either of the two sports could manage. Right?
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post #4 of 5 (permalink) Old 12-02-2009, 08:19 PM
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Re: Roller Skates damage Tennis Courts?

If the sign said ''no roller skating'' then that is what it means. You had no right to ask a member of the public to explain it to you. That is not his responsibility. Your responsibility is to obey the rules or take your case to the proper people - the city council I suppose.
If everyone thought they could decide for themselves what is permissible, there would be chaos.

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post #5 of 5 (permalink) Old 12-02-2009, 11:22 PM
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Re: Roller Skates damage Tennis Courts?

Originally Posted by MyTotaledCorolla View Post
I don't appreciate the snide comment,
lighten up francis, i'm just trying to indulge you cuz you weren't getting any responses

If tennis courts didn't have this special coating on the surface,
if they didn't have this special coating, they wouldn't be tennis courts.

on a hard court the paint is the first to go, the public courts where i play they have to have the lines re-touched once a year and the city can't afford it so the players have to pitch in (in addition to the money they shell out just to use the courts, they aren't free here), it costs thousands of dollars and has to be done by a specialist to be done right. I don't know anything about paint or chemicals or whatnot, but maybe the paint is designed to withstand weather and sneakers but not roller skates, or maybe it's just a scam perpetrated by the folks who charge $ to repair the courts. i don't really know.

i've seen "tennis courts" that were just asphalt with lines painted on, no special coating, just paint, but even so, just guessing here, i suspect roller skates are still more damaging to the paint than regular sneakers.

sounds to me like you're mostly just pissed off cuz somebody told you not to rollerskate on the tennis court. if you rolled on a public tennis court where i live, you'd get thrown off in a heartbeat by the parks dept personnel.
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