Basketball courts in outdoor spaces have become increasingly common and the continuing development of 3x3 basketball is likely to accelerate this trend. Outdoor courts can promote participation and provide a cost-effective way to reach parts of the community that can be otherwise difficult to engage.
Outdoor courts need to be convenient to access by their intended users. The case study shared below highlights how these facilities can bring positive benefits to their neighborhoods. To achieve this integration into the community, facilities should ideally be within walking distance of local residential areas and are often located in urban areas. Care should be taken to ensure that any aspects that might negatively impact on the community are minimized, this can include noise pollution (from players or the sound of the ball bouncing) into adjacent buildings or areas.
In terms of the specific location of outdoor courts, as well as considering the ground conditions, exposure to extreme weather including winds should be avoided where possible, e.g., by avoiding elevated locations or those in wind channels. Locations immediately adjacent to trees should also be avoided to prevent growth over the court area, leaves and fruit dropping onto the court and bird settling.
Some degree of protection might be required by installing hedges or fencing to prevent balls from escaping into adjacent areas or to prevent pedestrians or cyclists using the court as a short-cut. Hedges can also shield the court from the wind and provide privacy. Native, low-maintenance species should be used where possible, ideally of a non-deciduous variety. Consideration should also be given to the orientation of the court in relation to the position of the sun. For example, if the main usage of the court is anticipated in the early evening, then an orientation close to a north-south axis is recommended to avoid the sun setting behind the basket and causing glare to the players. If any viewing facilities are to be installed, these should also be positioned to avoid sun-glare at key times.
Where lighting is installed to enable games to take place during hours of darkness, it should be positioned at the side of the court and aimed at each free-throw line. The lights should be sufficiently elevated to avoid glare to the players. However, light spills into areas beyond the court should be avoided so as not to disturb local residents or wildlife. Lighting should be capable of being switched off at a certain point in the evening to avoid unauthorized or anti-social use of the court during the night. This will often be dictated by local regulations. Unless regular broadcasting from the venue is anticipated, the lighting does not need to conform to the standards indicated in the 3x3 equipment rules and simply needs to support the visibility of the court and its immediate vicinity. LED lighting of a minimum 100 lux would be sufficient. For courts hosting competitions with broadcasting demands, lighting shall
be of minimum 1200 lux across the playing area.
Outdoor court flooring is a key part of FIBA Equipment & Venue Centre’s approval process and a FIBA 3x3 Approved product should be used. Surfaces which have obtained the status of Approved 3x3 Equipment have undergone additional testing for outdoor requirements, such as dimensional stability, ultraviolet (UV) weathering, slip resistance in wet conditions, and infiltration rate of the surface. The approval applies not only to elite 3x3 competition (Level 1) but also covers safe and durable outdoor equipment recommended for use in outdoor school or community facilities (Level 2).
The surface can be provided in the form of permeable polypropylene tiles of 10-20mm. These tiles will usually sit on a rubber or foam underlay of 40-50mm (often designed to allow water to drain through them). In most cases, this underlay is mandatory if the floor is to achieve the elasticity properties required for FIBA Level 1 competitions. This type of court flooring has a standard lifespan of approximately 15 years depending on usage and climate.
It is recommended to secure the tiles in the center of the court (usually six tiles) with screws to provide additional stability. The edges of the sub-base are usually defined by kerb stones - these should be covered with non-slip ramps (approximately 50mm wide) to facilitate player access (including those using wheelchairs). These ramps are usually made from aluminum but other materials such as plastic can be used in enclosed or secure environments. A 30-50mm gap should be left between the playing surface and the edging blocks to allow materials to expand due to heat.
Another option is the installation of synthetic rubber flooring usually installed with a thickness between 8mm-13mm or prefabricated rubber flooring produced in rolls of approximately 6mm thickness. These products can be permeable or impermeable. If impermeable, a slight slope (as specified in the court-sub-base detail below) must be considered. Products with a smooth surface finish will provide better drainage than irregular rubber granules. Due to the durability of rubber, the surface can withstand high and low temperature conditions. This type of court flooring has a lifespan of up to 20 years and in case of damage, the damaged section of the court flooring can be cut out and replaced with the same material.
Courts of the World is FIBA’s Endorsed court finder platform, helping players of all levels find the best courts and play more basketball wherever they go. Users of the app and website have added over 50,000 courts to the popular map, including information about the court, photos and ratings.
It is essential that ground conditions are taken into account when locating outdoor basketball courts. This is to ensure that the court flooring can be placed on a stable surface but also that appropriate drainage can be factored into the installation.
The sub-base onto which the court flooring is laid is made from three types of material:
Asphalt: this is the most solid and durable sub-base but is also the most expensive and requires good site access for large vehicles which is not always feasible. It is also the least permeable material and therefore likely to require additional drainage measures. Asphalt is preferred for the installation of prefabricated rubber flooring due to the better adhesion when gluing the prefabricated material onto the asphalt.
Paving slabs: these are permeable (between slabs) and relatively easy to lay but can be prone to the movement of individual slabs creating deviations in the surface.
Foam concrete (with additional air mixed through): this is less expensive and usually easier to install than asphalt. It is semi-permeable but not quite as robust as asphalt.
Drainage can be vertical (points in the sub-base with pipes dispersing the water downwards deeper into the ground) or horizontal (pipes and channels that disperse the water sideways away from the court). Drainage can also take the form of horizontal barriers diverting water from the surrounding area away from the court. Basketball court flooring must be perfectly flat, therefore “crowns” or “envelopes” to facilitate drainage are not permitted. Where sufficient surface drainage is not possible a slight slope of up to 1% can be incorporated across a single plane. Any FIBA 3x3
Approved surfaces with a water permeability measure of more than 150mm/h are classified as impermeable systems. To ensure water does not pond on the surface, it is essential that the presence of any undulations in the surface are addressed and remedied during the installation phase. As a guide, it is recommended that for impermeable surfaces undulations observed under a 3m straight edge do not exceed 5mm across the entirety of the total playing area.
Court dimensions and markings
Full-sized courts should be installed according to the dimensions of the FIBA Official Rules of Basketball including the 2.0m outer boundary. Where constraints prevent this, there must be an absolute minimum of 1.0m from the pole supporting the backstop unit to the endline.
3x3 courts require a footprint of 18m x 14m. Further details on the dimensions of a 3x3 court and the detailed requirements for 3x3 equipment can be found in the 3x3 equipment rules.
The straight-line markings on basketball court flooring are normally incorporated into the surface tiles by the supplier. Curved markings can be applied post-manufacture at the supplier’s premises or can be applied once the court flooring is laid (providing the weather is dry and temperate). All court markings are applied on-site in the case of prefabricated rubber or rubber-granule court flooring.
Backstop units with backboards and hoops are required as a minimum for the game of basketball. The FIBA Equipment & Venue Centre has an approved range of products specifically designed and tested for outdoor use. For competitions designated as Level 1 by FIBA, the distance from the upright front surface (including padding) of the unit support to front surface of the backboard must be a minimum of 2.15m. For Level 2 competitions a minimum distance of 1.65mm is required and recommended for recreational use. Height-adjustable backstop units (allowing the hoop to be lowered as far as 2.6m from the ground) allow the court to be adapted for use by children and wheelchair users.
FIBA recommends that padding is applied to the backboard and unit, in accordance with the rules of basketball and to improve player safety. The condition of the padding should be assessed regularly and replaced when visibly deteriorated. Fixed backstop units can be bolted onto concrete anchor blocks set up to 1m into the ground. Where the unit meets the ground, the surface should be slightly raised and sealed to prevent water ingress and any surface pooling.
Smart equipment stations are a modern and sustainable method of providing access to shared equipment such as balls. Therefore, they are well suited to be co-located with outdoor courts. Users can register and gain access to these stations via an app on their smart device.
Other facilities that might be considered for the vicinity of the court are:
access to drinking water;
first-aid point and public access defibrillator;
emergency contact device;
lockers to secure bags and valuables;
waste bins (with separation for recycling); and
signage displaying any safety instructions or regulations and contact details to report problems.
Cleaning and maintenance
Any debris should be removed from the surface in a timely manner including leaves, animal droppings, litter and dirt. This can involve the use of a leaf blower, sweeping brush or pressure washer. The surface tiles should be taken up annually to allow a deep clean of any compacted debris. Failure to clean the court flooring will reduce its performance, can pose a risk to player safety and will reduce the lifespan of the court. Remember that the objective is to encourage people to use the court!
The surface and backstop units should be inspected regularly to identify any deterioration or damage. The frequency of inspections will depend upon the intensity of use, climatic conditions and local regulations. Surface tiles can usually be easily replaced. The backstop units should be cleaned with water and environmentally-friendly cleaning products. Bolts and other means of fitting should be checked for tension at least twice per year and protected with a suitable lubricant. Court markings should be refreshed every three to five years. EN 1176-7 is a European technical standard that provides recommendations on the scope of maintenance inspections for playground equipment and can be adopted for the regular inspection of outdoor backstop units.
Outdoor courts should not be used if there is snow or ice on the surface or when thunderstorms occur or are forecast. These instructions should be clearly communicated to users and physical measures might be required in these circumstances to prevent access.
3x3 Competitions are played on a half-court setup with one backstop unit. Elite 3x3 events are usually staged at iconic locations using a temporary court set-up. Many 3x3 competitions are played on existing outdoor facilities which can be upgraded to the required level. Official 3x3 competitions range from various youth competitions to the professional circuit for men and women (FIBA World Tour and FIBA Women’s Series) and national team competitions such as the FIBA 3x3 World Cup. Further details can be found here.
All FIBA-endorsed 3x3 events across the globe are managed according to tools and guidance that can be found here. These are available to use by anyone interested in organizing such events.
CASE STUDY: BUSSUM, NETHERLANDS
Although the outdoor court installed at Bussum in the Netherlands was funded by the local authority, it is a true community project. Basketball enthusiast Ti Vargas Grin noticed that the site of a court he used to play on when growing up, had fallen into a state of disrepair with the exception of anti-vandalism measures and was uninviting to the local community. As he returned to the sport and to fitness, he reclaimed the courts and attracted other users to organized sessions and inspired the growth of a local club side.
With the emphasis on outdoor spaces being heightened during the COVID-19 pandemic, the local authority was persuaded to invest €70,000 in a new court. The previous concrete tiles were removed (and repurposed as pathways), the sub-base area was increased to accommodate a full-sized court. Sand was added for drainage and new concrete tiles installed on which the court flooring of permeable polypropylene tiles with a rubber underlay layer was laid. Four benches made from recycled materials were placed around the court. A height-adjustable basket has been installed at one end to facilitate 3x3 games for both adult and junior age groups. The green and blue color scheme of the court is designed to fit into its surrounding parkland. The court is now “owned” by its community of users who oversee activities, cleaning and maintenance. A transformation brought about by a little inspiration and lots of enthusiasm.