What Jayhawk fan wouldn’t love a basketball court in his home built around a scoreboard from Allen Fieldhouse?
It’s a dream come true for one Parkville homeowner, and it’s part of a growing trend in Kansas City and around the country.
A survey this year by Christie’s International Real Estate found that sports courts in homes are growing in popularity and getting more elaborate.
Think ice hockey rinks with Zambonis and warming areas, a BMX course and an irrigated regulation soccer field. One home in Portland, the survey found, has a basketball court that transforms into a formal ballroom with chandeliers and a sound system for entertaining.
Another Parkville family built a $700,000 soccer/baseball field in a building that looks like an airplane hangar.
Marc Loe opened a Kansas City Sport Court franchise 18 years ago, building mostly outdoor courts. About 12 years ago, a growing number of clients came to him asking for indoor courts. His company installs the wall pads, flooring and goals.
“The homes got a little bit bigger, new construction took off, and everyone wanted to give their kids a safe place,” Loe says. “They can also excavate out beneath existing garages. That space under a garage is a good size for a basketball court. But I’ve had several where people build outbuildings for courts too. Usually when you get into outbuildings and barns you can do full courts. Most in-home are half courts.”
Costs to build indoor basketball courts, the Christie’s survey found, typically start around $80,000.
Russ Wolfe, a real-estate agent with Reece-Nichols, started seeing a proliferation of indoor sport courts in homes about 15 years ago, particularly in luxury homes in The National Golf Club in Parkville.
“One reason people do this is for their kids and their friends to hang out, so you always know where your kids are, right?” says Wolfe. “It’s definitely a trend. Even some smaller homes have found ways to accommodate sports during winter months.”
He gave a tour of the basketball court and the soccer/baseball field one afternoon. The owners of the homes asked that their names not be printed. One doesn’t want his clients knowing his personal spending habits. The other is afraid that more people will start calling, asking to use the field. It’s been an issue, he says.
The owner of the basketball court is — not surprisingly — a University of Kansas alum who loves playing basketball as much as watching it.
“I just really like to play, and it was tough to find a spot to go play with people who you’re going to get along with,” he says. “A lot of times you go to play a pick-up game, and it turns into fights. So when we went to build the house, I’d seen pictures of basketball courts in houses, and we found a lot where that would fit in.”
Since then, he’s held a weekly game for his buddies. After an hour or two of hard play, they head to a party room with a full-size bar that overlooks the court for beer.
It was also great to have, he says, when he became the father of boys who love to play sports.
“We wouldn’t have to drive them around (for practices),” he says. “We could just open the door and let them in. They also played on the court just to play, particularly during winter months, so we don’t have to worry about them destroying the house.”
The 40-by-50-foot basketball court, built in part of the home’s basement, looks like a shrunken version of a high school court but with a trademark crimson and blue Jayhawk painted in the middle. Plus there’s the pedigreed scoreboard.
The free throw lines meet high school regulations, as do portions of the three point lines, though they’re closer to the basket on the sides because the court is too narrow to make them meet high school standards, the owner points out.
The baskets are typically at regulation height, though they can be electronically lowered to 8 feet, which he did for his sons and their friends when they were young.
The flooring is a vinyl product that looks and feels like maple but requires less maintenance and has better shock absorption than hardwood, making it easier on the knees.
“If you dry dust it a couple of times a month that’s all you have to do,” says the owner. “The kids would ride bikes on it when they were young. It’s pretty indestructible.”
Buying the vintage scoreboard from his alma mater was nothing short of fortuitous, says the owner.
“When it came up (for auction), we were in the process of building our house,” he says. “If it came up when the house was finished, we never would have been able to get it in. We had to put it in before the roof was on or it never would have fit through the door.
We paid about $5,000. It wasn’t anything overly crazy, because what were people going to do with it? It was more expensive to haul it, hang it and wire it than it was to buy it.”
The owner of the combination soccer/baseball field has four children ranging in age from 9 to 16 and owns a construction company. He built the 100-by-100-foot detached play space as he was building his house five years ago.
A shortage of practice fields in the Northland led him to the idea. Three of his kids play soccer, and one is on a traveling baseball team. All their teams hold their winter practices on the field.
“Most sports organizations have gymnasiums locked up and a waiting list to get court and field time,” he says. “So my wife and I chose, rather than running around finding practice spots, we’d build a structure and an outdoor field where our kids and their teams could practice and therefore we wouldn’t have to run around. We can spend that time eating dinner as a family and our kids can do homework. So it’s purely selfish reasons.
In addition to 10,000 square feet of padded artificial turf, the building has a pitched ceiling ranging in height from 18 to 24 feet high with netting to prevent fly balls from hitting it.
“The most important part was to not have poles holding up the ceiling,” he says, noting how they’d interfere with playing ball.
There is also a soccer field with two goals, a long snapping net for any wannabe football centers, three pitchers mounds of varying heights, a baseball fielding net, a pitching net, a boxing bag and a batting cage with a pitching machine that can hurl baseballs and softballs at various speeds.
His kids never tire of the space, he says. They come over even during non-practice hours.
“In winter when it’s hard to get outside, they go over and go nuts over there,” he says. “Instead of rough housing in the house they go over, do whatever and get worn out. It’s pretty much indestructible.”
Cynthia Billhartz Gregorian: 816-234-4780, @CindyBGregorian
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