Geologists: Post-tension slabs not needed for courts

Geologists surveyed the soil under the Laguna Beach High School tennis courts and concluded that crack-resistant slabs are not required for five of the six courts.

One court has such a slab, called post-tension, beneath the playing surface already.

Geologists on March 28 observed "minor cracks" that are "widely spaced and do not show any significant separation or offset," according to a report from Laguna Beach-based Borella Geology Inc.

"We do not feel it necessary to remove existing slabs and construct a post-tension slab system," the report said. "The existing tennis court slabs are performing well and are suitable for resurfacing."

Post-tension slabs use treated, encapsulated steel cables that are pulled to a specified tension to keep concrete from cracking, Brian Hoggard, a resurfacing specialist with Orange-based Zaino Tennis Courts Inc., wrote in an email.

The issue of the tennis court repairs has garnered much discussion from parents at Laguna Beach Unified School District board and facilities meetings.

Parents who support post-tension slabs said resurfacing the courts without them would be a "patchwork" fix that will need to be addressed again in a few years.

Parents approached an outside company for a bid two years ago and were quoted $275,000 for post-tension slabs on five courts, according to a previous Coastline Pilot story.

"[The $275,000] was not quoted at a prevailing wage," said Ted Doughty, school district facilities director, who estimates the cost of such a project would be closer to $600,000.

Under the current joint-use agreement, the city would fund 70% of the project while the school district would be responsible for 30%.

City and school district officials agree the courts need to be resurfaced and the surrounding fence repaired. They differ on added amenities.

The city favors court lighting and player benches. The school district prefers adding spectator seating, a shade structure over bleachers and a storage area.

Paul Hamilton, who has two children on Laguna Beach High School's varsity tennis teams, said emphasis should be placed first on resurfacing the courts.

"If you only have enough money to fix four courts, fix those so we don't have to come back again in two years [to resurface courts]," said Hamilton, a structural engineer. "The courts are dangerous. There are chunks of concrete; some cracks have grass growing up through them. The high-level tournament players slide on some of their shots. They could blow their knee out."

The city has agreed to allot an extra $100,000 toward tennis court improvements in its 2013-14 budget, pending City Council approval, Community Services Director Ben Siegel said.

The next steps are to create a cost-benefit analysis, comparing the cost of maintaining the courts as they are versus installing post-tension slabs, and reviewing the process for selecting an architect, Doughty said.

"I don't expect something to go before the [school] board until late May," Doughty said. "We want to provide more research for the board to make an informed decision based on fact. It's easy to throw out a comment without being substantiated."

Many future court improvements would need Division of State Architect review. The state agency oversees construction and design for K-12 public schools and community colleges, he said.

Any DSA submittal would trigger Americans with Disabilities Act upgrades so facilities meet current codes, Doughty wrote in a follow-up email.

The more expensive the project, the more expensive the ADA upgrades and vice versa, he said.

Twitter: @AldertonBryce

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