How to Build a Beach Court

By Ali Wood Lamberson

Beach volleyball competitions can be held on a natural beach so long as the beach is level and the sand is at least nine inches deep and free from rocks, gravel and other hazardous objects. Another option is to build sand courts in an open area. Both options have been successful at the national and international level. The decision is contingent on the institution’s location, space availability, and resources. Building non-beach sand courts is more costly. 

The costs of using a natural beach are minimal and include standards (if not already present), nets, court lines and antennae. Portable nets systems are not recommended. If using a natural beach the institution will need to find one with pre-existing standards or to form an agreement with the local government to construct standards. Permit costs vary but are usually reasonable for non-profits not charging admission or other fees. 

In some situations, an institution may be able to obtain sand, gravel, and/or delivery at reduced or no-cost from construction companies, local beaches, golf courses, or professional volleyball tournaments. Because the quality of the sand is the most important feature of a man-made court, it is the most cost-prohibitive item. When considering finances, it makes sense for an institution who will undertake construction of a court(s) to share costs with institution’s campus recreation department or a local park by offering the courts during hours of non-use. Quality sand courts also afford fundraising opportunities of hosting recreational level tournaments and summer beach camps. 

Below are three examples of per court costs based on the AVP’s average sand costs and current pricing of equipment from Homecourt (www.homecourt.com) and Funtec (www.funtec.com). Several other manufacturer’s have permanent outdoor net systems available.

International Court Regulations
Following FIVB regulations, a playing area of 26 to 28 meters by 18 to 20 meters should be set up with the following measurements:
Court : 8 m X 16 m
Free zone: 5 to 6 m on each side
Free passage way (entrance): 3 meters
Space free from obstruction to a minimum height of 12.5 meters FIVB court schematic, (from 2008 FIVB Handbook, Chapter 3):

When considering the orientation of the court, the long axis should run north-south, so that the sun will rise and set along the net line minimizing the adverse effects of glare facing both the camera and the athletes. All courts, including the warm-up court, should be oriented similarly to maintain consistency. The affect of wind should also be considered with preference given to courts with wind crossing the sidelines or at an angle, but never end line to end line. 

If building a non-beach court, the depth of sand should be 12 to 24 inches. An area of 28 meters (92 feet) x 20 meters (66 feet) x 24 inches will require 12,144 cubic feet, approximately 200 to 600 tons of sand that is naturally weathered, rounded and not acquired from a crushed rock source. The playing surface must be as flat and uniform as possible and free from rocks, shells, or dangerous particles that may cause cuts or injuries to the athletes. A tarpaulin is recommended in case of rain, and the sand should be sifted prior to the event. In extremely hot climates the sand will need to be watered down between matches. 

The net posts must be rounded and smooth with a height of 2.55 meters and fixed to the ground at a distance of 0.7 to 1 meter from each side-line. Dangerous or obstructing devices must be eliminated and the posts must be padded. If the men’s and women’s competition are using the same court, the posts must be easily adjustable to allow a swift change of the net height. 

The net should measure 8.5 meters long and 1 meter wide with a 5 to 8 cm wide horizontal band of two-fold canvas at the top and the bottom of the net mesh. The height of the net must be of 2.43 meters for the men and of 2.24 meters for the women, measured from the center of the playing court. Antennae and court lines 5 to 8 cm wide marking the boundaries of the court are required. There is no center line.

Additional Equipment
Balls (minimum of six per court)
Water, umbrellas, and chairs for time-out zone
Referee stand
Scorer’s table with chairs
PA system
Players lounge or tent with chairs and access to a restroom or portalet, showers, and a changing area Area Needed
One court (Basic) - 14m x 22m
One court international/Olympic standard – 16-20m x 26-28m
Two court (Basic) - 28m x 22m
Two court international standard/Olympic standard – 32-40m x 26-28m
Three court (Basic) - 42m x 22m
Three court international standard/Olympic standard – 48-60m x 26-28m
Four court (Basic) - 56m x 22m
Four court (Basic) - 28m x 44m
Four court international standard/Olympic standard – 64-80m x 26-28m
Four court international standard/Olympic standard – 32-40m x 52-56m 

Optional Extras
Floodlighting
Determine whether lighting is needed, i.e. usage outside of daylight hours.
Develop floodlighting scheme for a realistic level of play perceived. 

A Variable lighting scheme to reduce lux dependent on level of play is economical. Lux levels:
Training 120lux.
School use and local competition up to 400lux.
International/Olympic 1000lux to 1500lux.
Ensure that floodlight scheme permits the ability to light individual courts.
Minimum of 8 meter columns. 

Permanent Structure Over Courts
A permanent structure over the courts will permit greater level of play during all weather and can be used to stop tree debris blowing onto the sand. However, the costs of providing would need to be weighed against the perceived benefits. One option is the conversion of existing indoor facilities into a beach area. Requirements are minimum 7 meter clearance for recreational use, 10.5-12.5 meters for international competition. 

Fencing
Consider fencing just the sandpit or a greater area to accommodate spectators and official etc. Fencing acts as a natural barrier to unwanted users. It segregates the facility from other areas of the site and prevents balls from migrating outside of the sand pit. In addition, fencing can prevent animals from entering the sandpit and can be used to support advertising banners and create a windbreak.
Basic chain link fencing is acceptable where vandalism is not anticipated.
Weld mesh fencing is more robust and generally considered more appropriate.
Fencing should ideally be 3m on all sides. 

Division Netting or Court-side Banners
Facilities with two or more courts in close proximity will require physical boundaries to stop balls from crossing into opposite courts. The best two options are:
Division netting: will require a winch system where the netting can be removed when the whole area is required for sports such as Beach Soccer.
Sideline banners, usually 8 or more feet in length and 2 or more feet in height, made of a PVC frame with a vinyl cover. 

Earth Banks
Earth banks around the facility can act as a windbreak, assist in retaining balls and provide a natural terracing for spectators. The earth banks can be created from the excavated soil. 

Hard Standing Areas and Access
Access to the sandpit should comply with the Disability Discrimination Act.
Vehicular access is required for emergency and service vehicles.
Hard standing areas should be considered, to facilitate officials and spectator areas.