By Joe Szabo, Scottsdale Real Estate Team
High-end homes are sporting an Olympic-array of facilities: from full-size gyms to baseball pitching ranges, badminton and volleyball areas, and stand-alone squash and racquetball courts. On the extreme end are indoor lacrosse turfs, wrestling rings and hockey rinks.
In Palm Beach, Fla., builder Terry Cudmore has just finished a replica of the Miami Heat’s home court at American Airlines Arena. While it boasts fewer seats than the real thing, the million-dollar project is emblazoned with the team’s logo and signage and includes a professional-quality floor, scoreboard and sound system. The family’s son uses it to practice basketball. In Kansas City, Mo., Cory Childress at Evan-Talan Homes is working on a home court with three basketball hoops, a soccer net, bleachers, a locker room and a bath with steam shower. In Telluride, Colo., the estate of Timothy Boberg and Roxanne Pulitzer includes, among other sporting amenities, a two-lane, 100-foot-long, computer-controlled indoor shooting range. That property is on the market asking $18.5 million.
“It’s picked up dramatically,” says Dave VanderVeen of WeBuildSports.com, which builds home gymnasiums and backyard courts in the Chicago area. Mr. VanderVeen says he used to install two or three indoor sports rooms a year, ranging from 1,000 to 3,000 square feet and costing $10,000 to $70,000. This past year he has been asked to give quotes for 25 projects and built about 11, the vast majority of which were in newly constructed homes, including a $170,000 job that had a full-size baseball pitching range and a gymnastics room. Gordon Anderson, whose Buffalo, N.Y.-based Anderson Courts and Sports Surfaces specializes in basketball, squash and racquetball courts, put squash courts in 12 private homes this past year—double his business four years ago—for budgets ranging from $35,000 to $70,000.
Connor Sport Court, a Salt Lake City, Utah-based global company that installs gyms for professional teams and private residences, held a focus group a few years ago to figure out why people were asking for more indoor courts at home.
The answer was twofold: a desire for a safe place where kids and parents could play, and a hope that increasing access to sports at home would help their kids athletically, and thereby socially, says CEO Ron Cerny. “Every parent sees their kid as a pro ballplayer,” adds Rolf Zimmermann, who sells equipment for Carmel, N.Y.-based Eastern Jungle Gym, which started with backyard swing sets but has diversified into indoor basketball courts because of demand.
Venture capitalist Larry Bettino was looking for a fun escape when he bought a weekend home in North Stonington, Conn., mostly because the shape of the barn would be perfect for a basketball court. He spent about $250,000 converting the barn into a two-level sports facility. Completed in 2010, it includes a full-size basketball court and squash court upstairs in what used to be the hayloft; downstairs there is a pool table and a weight and exercise room. “There’s a lot of pressure on these kids in our community. It is nice for them to be able to take a break,” says Mr. Bettino, father of three teenagers.
Last weekend, Sam Oh hosted a housewarming party for his new squash court, which included an exhibition match by two of the country’s top professional squash players, Julian Illingworth and Gilly Lane. Added to his Greenwich, Conn., property for about $50,000 (not including the new structure in which it is housed), the court allows Mr. Oh, a passionate player, to come home from work and play with one of his three daughters without having to get in a car and fight for court time at a club. “I travel a lot. I wanted to create an easy option to engage with my kids,” says Mr. Oh, a partner in a private-equity firm, adding that it is also a way for him to bring together the local squash community.
Alisha Jeppesen, a stay-at-home mom in Bennington, Neb., her husband and three kids will soon move into their new 5,000-square-foot home with its own 800-square-foot basketball court. The home cost $750,000; the court cost roughly $50,000. Ms. Jeppesen says her goal is to use the court for roller skating, rock climbing and tennis as well as basketball—and to turn it into a disco for parties. The plan was to “make our house so much fun that all of my kids’ friends want to be here and I know where they are and that they’re safe,” she says. “It’s a fun reason to invite someone over,” adds Elictia Hart, a pastor with twins who also has a new 800-square-foot court in her Omaha home.
Houses with indoor courts tend to be very large, usually 5,000 square feet or more, and many owners may not recoup their $50,000-plus investment when it comes time to sell. “Everybody loves it but not everybody can afford it,” says Mike Zawislak, an agent with Baird & Warner in the Chicago area who is listing a seven bedroom, eight bathroom, 10,000-square-foot house with a 20-by-40 foot racquetball court. The owners are asking $2.4 million, and the house has been on the market for almost a year.
Building the facilities is just the beginning. Installing heating and ventilation systems for large areas is expensive—up to $100,000 for just a squash court. Someone has to replace the light bulbs in superhigh ceilings. Plus, parking can become an issue when school teams and others begin using the space for practice.
Which leads to a common side effect of installing a big facility: requests from the community to use it. John Nugent, CEO of a software company, owns a 20,000-square-foot house in Andover, Mass., with a full-size basketball court, a batting cage with a pitching machine, a bowling alley, an indoor swimming pool and an outdoor putting green. Mr. Nugent says the court helped his son stay competitive in high school varsity sports; now that his son is in law school, lots of middle-school and high-school basketball and soccer teams use the gym. Mr. Nugent says he has no problem with that, although he does say “it can get to be a little bit of a traffic jam in our driveway in the afternoons.” The house is now for sale, asking $5.5 million.
The gym “is the most used room in the house,” says Tony Gracely, a Houston car dealer who now owns a commercial and residential real-estate financing and development company. His home has a full-size basketball court with a locker room and steam showers. Although his kids are grown—one son went on to play basketball at the University of Texas at Austin—Mr. Gracely uses the gym for his own weekly basketball games and for charitable events. Every week when it is cold, a group of neighborhood kids use the gym to play Wiffle ball.
Some of the happiest owners are those who built the facility for their own use. Helge Frank, a retired neurologist, installed a racquetball court when he built his house in Oak Brook, Ill. Although he has decided to sell the home, putting it on the market for $2.4 million, Mr. Frank says the court’s $60,000 cost was well worth it, giving him more than 30 years of twice-a-week games with friends.
Please note that this Scottsdale Real Estate Blog is for informational purposes and not intended to take the place of a licensed Scottsdale Real Estate Agent. The Szabo Group offers first class real estate services to clients in the Scottsdale Greater Phoenix Metropolitan Area in the buying and selling of Luxury homes in Arizona. Award winning Realtors and Re/MAX top producers and best real estate agent for Luxury Homes in Scottsdale, The Szabo group delivers experience, knowledge, dedication and proven results. Contact Joe Szabo at 480.688.2020, info@ScottsdaleRealEstateTeam.com or visit www.scottsdalerealestateteam.com to find out more about Scottsdale Homes for Sale and Estates for Sale in Scottsdale and to search the Scottsdale MLS for Scottsdale Home Listings.
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