As the president of Americourt Sport Surfaces, Dwight Johnson has been applying surfaces to tennis courts and other athletic venues for the past 23 years.
In all that time, he’s never faced a challenge quite like the one he has faced this summer working on the courts at the new Wake Forest tennis complex.
Since the complex is being built from scratch and time is at a premium, Johnson finds himself applying the surfaces while various other contractors go about their jobs. In a perfect world, the other contractors would be done and gone long ago.
"Ninety-nine percent of the time we come in after everyone else is finished," Johnson said. "This is the type of process where everything needs to remain very clean, and so it’s very difficult to keep things clean when you have contractors working all over. Sometimes you can’t keep them off the surface, or you have to work around them. So this is a very difficult process. It’s by far the most difficult job we’ve ever done."
Not to worry, though. Johnson is confident that everything will be done and looking good in time for the Winston-Salem Open, which is scheduled for Aug. 20-27.
Americourt, a Raleigh-based company, has previously done the courts at the Wake Forest Indoor Center and the surface at Wake Forest’s Clinical Research Center for Health and Exercise Science. It also lists Duke, North Carolina, N.C. State and Georgetown among its clients, and applied the surfaces at the Cary Tennis Center.
Americourt is applying Deco Turf II surfaces to the 13 courts, although two will be obscured during the tournament by temporary stands. Deco Turf II is the same surface that the US Open and all other tournaments in the Olympus US Open Series are played on.
Deco Turf II comes in liquid form, in 55-gallon drums.
Applying the surface is an 11-step process that takes five to six weeks, after other contractors have laid the asphalt base.
The first step is to determine if there are any low areas in the asphalt, and if so to level up the surface with a special patching compound. After that, an acrylic resurfacer is applied to add texture to the surface and to serve as a primer.
Then, two coats of Deco Turf II are sprayed onto the asphalt. Then a third coat is applied by hand with a three-foot squeegee, to make three coats of base material.
Then, two coats of a finer rubber latex material called Deco Base I are applied, again with a squeegee.
Then comes the first coat of color – in this case, blue on the inside and green on the outside, again to match all courts in the US Open and the Olympus US Open Series.
"Then we sand the entire surface," Johnson said. "We do that because we want to knock off any rubber that might stand up."
Then comes another coat of color, and finally two coats of a finish coating are applied. And finally, the lines are put down, and on the main show court, a Winston-Salem logo is applied.
There’s one catch.
It is best to apply the Deco Turf II surface in relatively cool temperatures, so that the rubber-like components won’t bubble up. So Johnson finds himself doing a lot of his work in the early morning hours.
"If it gets too hot, then the material has a tendency to ball up a little as we apply it," Johnson said. "So with this type of temperature (in the 90s most of this month), we prefer to apply it either at night or before noon."
The weather, for the most part, has cooperated. Americourt began applying the surfaces the first week of July, so with the five-six week time frame, everything’s on schedule.
"Again, it’s an extremely difficult project, so I suppose anything can still happen," Johnson said. "But I’m confident that we’re in good shape."