By Dave Flessner

Business Editor

After five years of building and repairing tennis courts and running tracks across the Southeast, Competition Athletic Surfaces Inc., is reaching new heights this summer.

The Chattanooga paving company recently installed artificial turf for a rooftop garden at Erlanger’s T.C. Thompson Children’s Hospital and soon will build a walking and jogging path on a repaired roof atop one of UnumProvident’s downtown office buildings.

"We’ve had some unusual projects this year, but I think it shows the different ways in which our surfaces can be used and applied," said Lee Murray, a founder and vice president for Competition.

Mr. Murray joined with two other paving industry veterans — Steve Clift and Mike Gregory — to form their North Hawthorne Street business in October 2000. The trio specialize in building, resurfacing and repairing tennis courts, running tracks and other athletic services for colleges, high schools, athletic clubs and private residences throughout the Southeast. The company has installed new surfaces locally ranging from a cushiony DecoTurf at the Manker Patten Tennis Club to a cardio room floor with logo at the Baylor School Fieldhouse.

The business, which did about $400,000 in sales during its first year, has quickly grown to top $4 million this year.

"We’ve reached in five years what we originally thought would take seven or more years," said Mr. Clift, company president. "This a relationship business, and with our experience and contacts I think we’ve offered customers a comfort level and made sure we delivered on what was promised."

The eight-employee staff for Competition Athletic Surfaces has a combined half century of experience in building tennis courts, tracks and other athletic surfaces. The company recently expanded into the artificial turf business, repairing the artificial turf on the football field at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green.

Mr. Murray said the company was hired earlier this summer to install an artificial grass turf and a carpet-like turf for a new rooftop garden at Erlanger. The hospital is building the garden and walkway on a third floor roof at T.C. Thompson’s Children’s Hospital to provide an outdoor area for patients and their parents, Erlanger spokesman Christine Goodman said.

At UnumProvident, Competition will install a one-seventh of a mile walking track to help employees exercise on the roof of the company’s West Building downtown, UnumProvident spokeswoman M.C. Guenther said.

But the company’s primary business remains tennis courts and running tracks. As baby boomers age, many are seeking new, softer surfaces to help older runners jog without knee problems generated from harder surfaces. The growing popularity of tennis, running and other athletic activities also is propelling more business, Mr. Clift said.

"We work on everything from fixing minor cracks and drainage problems to helping design entire athletic fields and facilities," Mr. Murray said. "We want our customers to "run all over us.’"

E-mail Dave Flessner at

This story was published Saturday, June 25, 2005

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