I wrote in PSBJ exactly a year ago in a focus on leisure that there is more to fencing than meets the eye. I argued that leisure and sports fencing can keep balls in play, reduce maintenance, provide safety and security, deter vandalism and graffiti, and even be an integral part of the field of play.
I was on a mission to better inform specifiers and architects of the many benefits they could reap and risks they could minimise from properly specifying what, to most, appeared to be just a simple sports fence enclosure.
We, at Zaun, have certainly made some progress on that mission. Fewer specifiers I speak to today, compared with a year ago, are surprised at the range of questions I ask before I will recommend the most appropriate fencing solution for their sports area.
While fencing itself may have changed little in that year, the adoption of technology as commonplace has continued to move on at a pace. Furthermore, we have innovated the range of fencing we might recommend for specific applications, developing bespoke fencing to meet the very particular demands of specific sports.
For instance, we partnered with Cannock Hockey Club of the English National Premier League to develop a low-noise and low-maintenance metal fence which has set new benchmarks in hockey perimeters.
Ground Committee President Ken Bedford wanted to address some key issues with their perimeter fencing when he looked to upgrade the club’s pitches. The club was experiencing high maintenance costs to replace nets and wooden boards damaged by constant ball impacts. He also wanted to limit the noise of the wooden boards which was affecting the experience for players and spectators alike.
Together, we developed a system at its Chase Park site to mitigate the effects of the high-impact sport and to cut maintenance bills by reducing its need and replacing only individual fence panels when necessary.
The system does away with nets and wooden boards around the ground and replaces them with twin-wire mesh fencing.
The bottom 210mm of the steel fencing system uses a high density of twin horizontal 8mm wires in a close 25 x 50mm mesh pattern – or up to 400mm behind the goals – that reduces significantly the noise while withstanding a far greater number of ball impacts without damage.
The system is then topped with Super Rebound, which gives better viewing, no risk of player or spectator injury from splinters or mid rails and no solid surface for vandals to graffiti.
Similarly with tennis, we have developed our Advantage Tennis system that eliminates many of the downsides of traditional tennis chain link fencing, which deforms over time and is easy to cut, disfigure and vandalise.
That’s the system that has been installed at upgraded outdoor courts, including four brand-new courts, in two public parks in the town that was famous for producing the Lloyd tennis siblings David, John and Tony.
Southend-on-Sea was hoping to inspire the next generation of British tennis talent with newly-refurbished courts and a series of participative programmes.
The council is working in partnership with the Lawn Tennis Association and Fusion Lifestyle to provide a community tennis scheme and improve access and participation in the sport.
And they’ve turned to technology to further the cause. They asked for the gates to the courts to be secure and fitted with locks triggered by key fobs, providing access to tennis courts all year round at Chalkwell Park and Priory Park.
Residents can buy fobs online or at a number of Southend leisure centres for just £27.50 per year – or just £25 with a Southend Advantage Card.
They come with a unique membership number and 4-digit PIN, allowing users to book online and turn up at their allotted time, let themselves in with their fob and play. Floodlights for just £2 for 30 minutes mean the courts are genuinely available 365/24/7.
Just down the road, Waltham Forest Council has innovated with LED floodlights at new tennis courts at Ridgeway Park that use far less energy than conventional lighting. While zero cost lighting is one of the innovative features of the second best outdoor gym in the world in Hull.
Shaw Park Eco Gym – one of eight free-to-use outdoor gyms installed for the city council by The Great Outdoor Gym Company – is powered entirely by human movement and is lit up at night at no cost.
It allows people to exercise around the clock and has attracted official visits from as far afield as Japan and Hungary. The global attention saw it voted the second best outdoor gym in the world after California’s muscle beach.
It proves that anything is achievable if you set your sights high enough and engage the right people early enough in the process.