Case Studies

The American Sports Builders Association: Representing America’s Sport Construction Experts

  • Written by: The American Sports Builders Association: Representing America's Sport Construction Experts
  • Produced by: The American Sports Builders Association: Representing America's Sport Construction Experts
  • Estimated reading time: 6 mins

The American Sports Builders Association (ASBA) provides a consolidated forum for professionals specializing in sport facility construction to network and strategize. The nonprofit trade organization was founded in 1965 as the U.S. Tennis Court and Track Builders Association by a group of contractors looking to increase transparency, communication and standardization within the industry. The name may have changed, but the ASBA’s mission remains to promote the interests of its membership through nationally recognized certification programs and the continual development and dissemination of technical information.

The Maryland-based association aims to be the foremost authority of reliable technical information in the industry for both builders and the consumer. The ASBA publishes a variety of buyers’ guides, newsletters, position papers, and construction and maintenance manuals geared at raising awareness and setting a common standard for sport facility construction. The ASBA’s membership is corporate, and represents roughly 400 organizations: a mix of contractors (known as Builder members), design professionals (known as Professionals) and Suppliers, as well as Provisional members (those companies which would qualify as Builders, but which have not been engaged in the business of building sports facilities for at least two years). A fifth membership category, Ancillary, is for organizations that have an active interest in the sports facility industry, but which do not build, design or supply; examples would be trade publications, governing bodies and so forth.

This membership itself has four focus areas (also known as membership divisions); these divisions build facilities for indoor sports, track, tennis and field sports like football and baseball.

The Association produces Construction Guidelines; these documents are regarded as the industry standards in construction documents for tennis courts, running tracks, sports fields and more, and are used by national governing bodies, as well as other organizations. Construction Guidelines, as well as other publications, are made available on the association’s website.

ASBA produces two meetings a year: its Technical Meeting in December (which includes a trade show and in-depth programming related to topics of relevance to the industry) and a Winter Meeting (generally held in February or March, to allow board members, committees and interested volunteers to work on association publications and projects). The association is governed by a board of directors that meets several times a year, including at the Technical and Winter meetings, as well as in the summer in Maryland.

Certification Program

The association runs a voluntary builder certification program pertaining to three of its four focus areas (tennis, track and sports fields). The certification program was developed to help validate the knowledge and qualifications of individuals working in the sports facility construction industry. An individual working for an ASBA Builder member company may choose to pursue certification if desired; however, this is not a requirement for membership in the association itself. Certification is individual, and not corporate; a company may advertise that it has a Certified Builder on staff, but it may not itself claim to be certified. Certification is an excellent way to demonstrate an individual’s expertise in sports facility construction and, in doing so, to increase the marketability of that individual’s company.

An individual may choose to pursue the designation of Certified Tennis Court Builder (CTCB), Certified Track Builder (CTB) or Certified Field Builder (CFB). Field builders alternatively may choose to pursue certification in a specific type of field (Certified Field Builder-Synthetic, or CFB-S, or Certified Field Builder-Natural, CFB-N, depending upon whether the individual specializes in synthetic turf or natural grass).

As any ASBA member will attest, designing, building and maintaining a sport facility is an art unto itself, since high-performance sport facilities need to be well-constructed, cost-effective in the long run, and safe for the end user. It takes a highly experienced professional to build a post-tensioned tennis court that meets the standards set forth in the ASBA’s Construction Guidelines, for example. An inexperienced builder may be able to produce a court that looks great but does not last, or does not meet construction standards, or may even increase a player’s likelihood of injury.

Demonstrated Experience Required for Certification

Applicants seeking the Certified Builder designation must have at least three years of experience in sport facility construction with demonstrable evidence of their work in all parts of the construction process – from project administration to surfacing and marking. Member organizations often specialize in just one component of sport facility construction, like post-tensioned concrete or surfacing, but in order to be a Certified Builder, an individual must demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the complete construction and maintenance process in their focus area of tennis, tracks or sports fields.

Candidates must also supply a minimum of three references so that the ASBA can verify the applicant’s eligibility and experience. Each candidate must then pass a four-hour or five-hour exam that addresses all aspects of the sport facility. Ideally, a Certified Builder should understand the needs of sports facilities with regard to site-specific conditions, and understand the proper care and maintenance of those facilities once they have been built according to standards.

Certification remains valid for three years and the ASBA maintains the authority to revoke certification at any time should a builder fail to uphold the association’s procedures and standards for professional conduct.

Maintenance of an individual’s Certified Builder credential may be conducted two ways. The first is by retaking the examination with a passing grade. The second is by submitting paperwork verifying that the individual has remained active in the industry, showing “points” gained through certain activities, such as attending technical presentations and workshops in the industry, as well as by continuing to demonstrate expertise with activities including authoring articles for industry publications, making presentations at meetings, and participating in review committees for industry publications.

ASBA continues to update the certification exam and program to reflect the best and most current practices.

Certification Upheld as Standard

One of the association’s biggest successes came in 2008 when the Massachusetts Attorney General upheld a ruling that the Masconomet Regional School District could include ASBA’s builder certification program as a requirement of bidder qualification. The project in question was a running track resurfacing contract, and the school district wanted to ensure its taxpayer dollars would fund the most cost-effective solution. The lowest bidder was a company without a Certified Track Builder on staff, and therefore was not awarded the contract, which went to a company that was both a member of the ASBA and that employed a number of individuals holding Certified Builder credentials. The company that did not receive the project appealed the school district’s decision.

Upon reviewing the losing company’s appeal of the award, the Attorney General ruled that because the certification program was open to the public, the certification requirement was not unfairly limiting and was in fact “a rational basis for concluding that [an applicant] was not a responsible bidder.” The ruling reinforces the expertise and professionalism of ASBA members and opens the possibility for more public authorities to include ASBA’s builder certification program as a qualification requirement as well.

Spreading the Word

The ASBA is equally concerned with consumer education, and the voluntary certification program provides consumers with a way of evaluating the expertise of sport facility builders.

ASBA provides publications and programs that also help inform consumers. The association designs its buyers’ guides in hopes of demystifying the many choices available to consumers. These guides spell out the different types of surfaces, designs and more available to consumers, helping them to become more informed and avoid unpleasant surprises when making decisions.

ASBA further publishes four comprehensive resource guides of use to consumers and industry professionals: “Tennis Courts: A Construction and Maintenance Manual”; “Running Tracks: A Construction and Maintenance Manual”; “Sports Fields: A Construction and Maintenance Manual”; and “Indoor Synthetic Surfaces: An Installation and Maintenance Manual.”

Recognizing Good Work

The association also runs an awards program to recognize projects that best exemplify the ideals of the association. Awards often recognize projects where member companies developed innovative solutions to seemingly insurmountable complications.

One such project, a tennis court complex at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, was recognized as one of several Distinguished Outdoor Tennis Facilities in 2009. ASBA member company Renner Sports Surfaces had worked to renovate the facility over the summer in time for its opening in the 2008 school year. Renner combated the desert heat throughout the summer months by working only at night and eventually devised a system to pour concrete by 1 a.m., wrap up by 5 a.m. and flood the whole facility with ice water so the concrete could remain cool enough to cure by 8 a.m.

The project is just one example of outstanding facilities that are the result of innovative design and construction on the part of ASBA members — and there are similarly impressive challenges each year. Building a sport facility takes more than just equipment, and the American Sports Builders Association and its members will continue to refine the publications and procedures that help the industry continue its evolution.

Published on: March 12, 2013

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