HarTru

Har-tru History

Early 1900s

Har-Tru Sports has a long and rich history dating back to the early 1900s. In the early 1900s tennis was played on local clays, grass, or on a product called En-Tout-Cas, a crushed brick product from Europe.

The brick was sometimes shipped over from Europe as ballast on empty ships. The European-style clay court is still being used today in several European countries. In 1931 the first Har-Tru court was built and the brand was born.

Har-Tru History Zing and Zip! A Har-Tru ad from the 1940s.

1928

HORACE ROBINSON VISITS THE FUNKHOUSER COMPANY

Horace Robinson was a local contractor who had switched from local clay to En-Tout-Cas, the brick granular product from England. As his experience grew, he went in search of an American supplier for the granular clay-type courts he was building. Hearing about a green stone in Pennsylvania he visited the Funkhouser Company to learn more about the by-product from their roofing granule plant. Robinson convinced them to experiment with the product as a tennis court surface.

Early 1930s

Har-Tru was named by Horace’s wife

Horace Robinson’s full name was Henry Alexander Robinson. His wife thought of using his initials—HAR—and combining them with the true green color and true bounce that came from playing on the product. When Mr. Robinson died, she sold the name and Har-Tru business to employees. Incorporated in 1932 in New York, Har-Tru was later re-incorporated in Maryland in 1947.

1931

The first court was built in Hagerstown, Maryland.

Early 1940s

HAR-TRU TAKES HOLD

During this time, many Har-Tru courts were built, primarily in the club market and at private homes throughout the country. Har-Tru was sold regionally under several names established by local contractors. Examples included Rubico, Tennico, Petico, Standard Green, and Porous Green.

WEST SIDE TENNIS CLUB BUILDS SEVEN HAR-TRU COURTS

Still in use today, the West Side Tennis Club contracted the building of seven Har-Tru courts. For three years during the mid-70s the US Open was played at the West Side Tennis Club

1952

BOB LEE STARTS WORKING FOR THE FUNKHOUSER FAMILY

In 1952 the Funkhouser family hired Robert Lee right out of college as an engineer for their roofing plant. There he learned the roofing granule business and the mechanical side of Har-Truproduction. When the Funkhousers’ business was split into separate roofing granules and tennis court divisions, Bob Lee became Vice President of Har-Tru’s tennis court division. He spent the next several years building up the Har-Tru brand by providing quality construction throughout the US. This obsession with quality eventually became synonymous with the Har-Tru court we know today.

1964

BOB LEE MEETS LUCK STONE

During his travels, Bob Lee passed through Virginia and noticed the green pavement of central Virginia. His search for the source stone led him to a quarry owned by the Luck family. Lee, with Luck’s help, used the Charlottesville green stone as a source for his product, Green Stone, and began to compete with the Har-Tru product mined in PA. Lee started his business in 1964, which was great timing as it put his company in a perfect position to take advantage of the upcoming tennis boom of the 1970s.

Early 1970s

THE TENNIS BOOM HITS AN ALL-TIME HIGH OF 34 MILLION PLAYERS

In the ‘70s, courts popped up everywhere. Building tennis courts suddenly became a hot new trend. The demand for the product was so strong that both the Lee and the Har-Tru plants together could hardly keep up. Many of these courts built in the ‘70s still are around and being used today. 

During the boom, Lee Tennis also started to make court maintenance products such as rollers, drag brushes, and line sweepers. The reason was twofold: to create equipment and tools that would simplify court maintenance and to occupy the workforce in the off season. What began as off-season work today accounts for nearly one-half of Lee Tennis’ business.

1975-1977

THE US OPEN WAS HELD ON HAR-TRU COURTS

The US Open went from grass to Har-Tru and the prestigious West Side Tennis Club hosted some of the top champions of the golden era of Tennis.

1975 US OPEN

Night tennis makes its debut in Grand Slam tennis at the 1975 US Open—the first of three US Opens played on clay courts. 

 

Early 1980s

LEE TENNIS CHANGES ITS FOCUS

In the late ‘70s, business began to decline as the boom subsided. Lee Tennis knew they needed new marketing efforts to stay viable. Facing fierce competition for court business in the early ‘80s, Lee Tennis began to add value to its brand by offering new products, seminars, catalogs, and hands-on customer service. This marketing effort, along with an intense partnering effort with court contractors, is still the basis of the company today.
 
Business began to grow again through these efforts and has continued to grow ever since.
 

Late 1980s

HYDROCOURT WAS INTRODUCED TO THE TENNIS BUSINESS

In the late ‘80s technology brought us the HydroCourt underground watering system that would re-energize the new court market. After working with HydroCourt for several years, Lee Tennis purchased the patent rights for HydroCourt in March of 1990 and developed and standardized the system, which ignited a new interest in clay courts. This innovation lowered maintenance costs and reduced water usage and costs, making clay courts more attractive for ownership and setting the tone for growth in the ‘90s.
 
Also as a byproduct of HydroCourt came laser grading and bulk bags; the combination of which would lower production costs and speed up the construction process. Laser grading for both new construction and for major lift work has made the Har-Tru court much more practical and affordable to build and own in the long run.
 
 
 

Early 1990s

A TIME OF TURMOIL, FIERCE COMPETITION, AND CONFUSION

The ‘90s became complicated as Har-Tru and its supplier, ISP, parted ways. The split created turmoil and confusion in the soft court industry. Each company produced its own separate product using different stone sources.

1994

LEE TENNIS POSTS ITS FIRST WEBSITE

In July 1994, Lee Tennis launched one of the first tennis surface industry websites. It began an era of information for court owners and contractors. Lee was ahead of the curve and offered personalized contractor sites as well as support information for the construction and maintenance of its Lee Fast-Dry court.

1998

 LEE TENNIS IS SOLD TO LUCK STONE CORPORATION

It was during this time that Bob Lee decided to retire and Lee Tennis was sold to the company’s long-time friend and supplier, Luck Stone. Having partnered for years, this was a natural and smooth transition for both companies. Lee Tennis had management in place, which allowed the change to be transparent to its loyal customers.

LEE TENNIS PURCHASES THE TENNIS COURT BUSINESS OF ISP

With the added financial support of Luck Stone, Lee Tennis grew even stronger. In the fall of 1998 Lee bought out ISP’s tennis division and began to consolidate the fractured industry. With the help of Luck’s capital, production capacity was put into place to handle the additional business. This production transition was made in the spring of 1999.

1999

LEE TENNIS PURCHASES THE HAR-TRU NAME

The circle begun by Bob Lee back in the ‘60s was completed in 1999 when Lee Tennis acquired the brand name Har-Tru. Since clay courts accounted for only 18% of the tennis court surfaces market, Lee decided to consolidate its business behind the perennial brand name Har-Tru.

LEE TENNIS BUILDS HUGE WAREHOUSE FOR HAR-TRU STORAGE

After Lee acquired ISP, extra storage was needed to build up enough inventory for the spring season. Inventory is built up in the late fall and winter to ensure enough supply for spring’s heavy demand. The warehouse also serves as a covered loading area for as many as three trucks at a time.

2000

HAR-TRU NAMED THE OFFICIAL SURFACE OF THE MEN’S SENIOR TOUR

Lee Tennis sponsored the “Men’s Senior Tour” in 2000. The sponsorship was used as a way to market its products. The event featured players such as Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, and other former high-profile players who competed for prize money and the ultimate year-end championship title. The event culminated in a final Har-Tru court tournament held in New York City at the Wollman Arena in Central Park.



2001

LEE TENNIS INTRODUCES FACILITY ANALYSIS SURVEY SERVICE

To fill a great need in the industry, Lee Tennis introduced a consulting service—FAS. The Facility Analysis Survey includes a comprehensive court condition evaluation and report. The in-depth report guides club owners and managers in the bidding process for any work that needs to be done. The report also provides short- and long-term plans for prioritizing the work. In the five years since its inception, over 800 courts have requested Facility Analysis Surveys.

2003

LEE TENNIS INTRODUCES TENNIS OPTICS TO CONTRACTORS

In partnership with US Architectural Lighting, Lee introduced Tennis Optics lighting, which offered full-service sales, layout, and tennis court lighting consulting services for single and multiple courts. The partnership took Lee Tennis one step closer to fulfilling all tennis court needs for its contractor network.

2004

DAVIS CUP APPROVES HAR-TRU AS AN OFFICIAL COURT SURFACE

Har-Tru was approved as an official permitted court surface for the Davis Cup.

2005

WIMBLEDON SELECTS HYDROCOURT FOR ITS UNDERGROUND WATERING SYSTEM

A Lee Tennis contractor in the UK installed two HydroCourts for Wimbledon’s use of the underground watering technology. This installation led Wimbledon to build three more HydroCourts in 2007. Approximately two-thirds of the new courts constructed in the US currently use a sub-surface watering system.

2006

HAR-TRU TRAVELS TO CHINA TO EXPLORE CHINESE TENNIS MARKET

Har-Tru representatives made their first trip to China to explore the booming Chinese tennis market. The trip was planned with the assistance of the Virginia Department of Economic Development and meetings were held in three cities with approximately 50 contractors, pros, club managers, and government officials in the Chinese tennis world. This led to the construction of clay courts in six different provinces in China and the widespread acceptance of clay as the first choice for player development in China.

LEE TENNIS RENOVATES ITS PLANT

In the fall of 2006, Lee Tennis undertook a major renovation to replace its worn-out, outdated equipment used for bagging and packaging. New binder storage was also added and was completed in less than a month. Two years in the making, the total renovation made Lee’s manufacturing plant a state-of-the-art facility.

CLAYTECH INTRODUCED TO THE US MARKET

Har-Tru introduced ClayTech to the US market in 2006. The first ClayTech court went down in Roswell, Georgia. In conjunction with a team of French Installers, the court was put to the test and became the focus of Har-Tru’s first video on ClayTech. ClayTech courts are in use in multiple locations all around the US. This is the first true all-weather clay court and is designed to convert a hard court to clay.