COURT IS IN SESSION: The Miami Open has been been using Advanced Polymer Technology’s Laykold courts since 1985. (Courtesy Advanced Polymer Technology)

New role as court provider opening doors, Laykold brand says

The company named the first new hard-court provider for the U.S. Open tennis tournament in 42 years sees the new exposure as an opportunity to grow.

“We have been waiting for an opportunity to showcase our quality at the world’s biggest tennis tournament,” said Jim Sacco, chief operating officer of Advanced Polymer Technology, a subsidiary of sport surface specialist Sport Group that will manufacture the Laykold courts for the Open. “We are delighted to have been chosen. We are grand slam ready.” 

Laykold has been around since 1956 and has been the official surface of the Miami Open since 1985, but having the opportunity to move to the U.S. Open gives Laykold and parent Sport Group the footing to advance further in the sport. The five-year deal was announced last week.

CLEAN START: The surface is to be in place for this year’s U.S. Open, scheduled for Aug. 31-Sept. 13. (Courtesy Advanced Polymer Technology)

“This is a big change for them, and they don’t do things differently lightly there,” said Randy Futty, regional sales manager for Laykold. “I see this as a huge bonus for us, in the New York metro area and beyond that globally. I think we will see a lot of national tennis centers around the world inquire about switching surfaces.”

Along with taking over the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, the new U.S. Open contract has given Sport Group a few smaller tennis tournaments in North America, and discussions are underway with more tournaments, clubs and universities. “Just this small amount of business is great and we would never turn our nose up at that, but the bigger prize is all those people who want to emulate the U.S. Open,” Futty said. 

The change for the tournament comes as Laykold and Advanced Polymer Technology say they can create a new standard in consistent pace and bounce as well as consistency from court to court. “At the Open, Arthur Ashe Stadium needs to play the same as outer court 16,” Futty said. “That is what the U.S. Open demands.” 

Through testing, Futty said, the company has shown it can meet that demand. The request for proposal process required further proof — more than a year of preparation, documentation, interviews and testing. “It was an amazing journey,” Futty said. 

“At the conclusion of the complete transformation of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, we felt it was time to explore all new approaches and technologies to court surfacing,” said Danny Zausner, chief operating officer of the complex, in the statement announcing Laykold’s selection. “During this exploration, Laykold quickly rose to the top, and working with them, we are confident we will have the best-playing and best-performing courts in the world.”

The most recent update at the center, a five-year, $550 million project, included replacing the second- and third-largest stadiums and placing a retractable roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium, the world’s largest tennis stadium.

Sport Group employs over 1,900 people in 70 countries. In addition to Advanced Polymer Technology, the global businesses include AstroTurf, a familiar name since the product’s installation at Houston’s Astrodome in 1966, and Polytan. Products include soccer’s LigaTurf, used at FIFA headquarters; track surface Rekortan; and field hockey turf Poligras, which has been used at seven Olympics. 

Jessica McManus, marketing manager for Advanced Polymer Technology, said the fully integrated global supply chain from raw materials to installation allows for the consistency of product. The acrylic court for the U.S. Open, manufactured outside of Pittsburgh, will include a proprietary sand mix to allow the brand to more easily control the pace rating required by individual tournaments. Testing continues, and samples will be completed before installation in Flushing Meadows ahead of this year’s tournament, which is scheduled for Aug. 31-Sept. 13.

The U.S. Open resurfaces its courts annually.

Sport Group has grown through the years through acquisitions and comprises 19 companies, a mixture of surface brands, manufacturers and installers. “We have Ph.D. chemists who work with sports professionals and can really bring in technology from other product lines and other sports lines to problem solve and bring new technology to different sports,” McManus said.