A subterranean squash court in a Birmingham home provides a place for exercise and family bonding.
BY BRYAN GOTTLIEB / PHOTOGRAPHY BY BRETT MOUNTAIN
It’s not uncommon for Birmingham’s well-heeled homes to have dedicated workout rooms, but a few years after Matt Powers and his family moved into their 2004-built contemporary colonial, he decided he wanted something “different” as far as home gyms go — like an indoor squash court. “I’m a lower-level player, but the aerobic workout is fantastic and it’s just fun,” says Powers. (He asked that we not use his real name.)
It bears mentioning that a regulation squash court requires nearly 19 feet of height from floor to ceiling, and allocating almost 675 square feet of Birmingham real estate is a tall order. Powers, however, inherited a double lot when he bought the house, leaving room to add what would later become an attached three-car garage at ground level, a home office, a four-piece bath, enviable storage facilities on the second floor — and space for the squash court, buried 20 feet below grade.
“I brought [the builder] in and we talked about this empty lot that we had,” Powers recalls. “I said how the kids are getting older, they’re not playing kickball on the side yard anymore. They’re not doing chalk marks on the driveway. You know, what can we do?” The court came together with the help of his general contractor, Ben Heller of Pontiac-based Heller & Associates, along with a coterie of commercial-grade subcontractors; including a facilities expert Powers found, called Anderson Courts out of Buffalo, New York.
The space was outfitted to comply with the technical requirements spelled out for a regulation court, including spring-undermount wooden floorboards allowing for requisite “bounce,” resin-paneled walls demarcating height, and other game elements. The Powers added a basketball net that remains recessed into the court’s interior sidewall, hidden until wanted; hydraulics extends the net out for play.
To take advantage of the space when it’s not being used for squash, Powers and his wife added a ceiling-anchored multimedia projection system that uses the white resin walls for watching live sports and screen-ing movies. A handful of overstuffed theater seats run adjacent to the glass partitions at original basement grade.
While its principal use is for playing squash, which Powers says he does two to three times a week, his pitch for selling the idea to his wife focused heavily on the space’s utility: “I said [to her], ‘Let’s have something so unique that we can have some enjoyment,’” Powers explains. “I said, ‘The kids can enjoy it and the adults can enjoy it; we can watch a little TV … it’s a nice evening.’”
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