A complete guide to selecting the right sports surface
By Margaret Ahrweiler
|TOP LEFT: PHOTO COURTESY OF BSA ARCHITECTS; TOP RIGHT, BOTTOM LEFT: PHOTOS COURTESY OF PLEXIPAVE; BOTTOM RIGHT: PHOTO COURTESY OF SPORT COURT|
The idea of a floor, on the surface, seems pretty simple: something to stand on. Outside, it meant grass or dirt. Add sports and recreation into the mix, though, and it becomes something to stand on, run on, jump on, sit on, roll on, bounce on, fall on, race on, dance on, meet on.
More complicated yet, every year seems to bring a new sport or fitness with new flooring requirements: Did planners have to worry about Pilates or inline hockey needs 20 years ago? On top of that, dozens of different manufacturers, each with an array of products, compete for a slice of the sports surface pie.
How is a facility manager supposed to make a decision? As it turns out, education and thoughtful planning can reduce the headaches and clear the path to the right floor.
Actually, say the experts, choosing the floor is the last and sometimes easiest part of the process. The hard part lies in asking—and answering—the questions that lead to the right floor.
|PHOTO COURTESY OF HARO SPORTS|
|The sports hall of the university of sports of Innsbruck|
The first question facility owners need to ask: How is the surface going to be used?
"It sounds obvious, but it's not," observes Sally Cottingham, whose Chicago-based firm, Moose Sports Surfaces Ltd. , brokers sport surfaces. "Rarely do you see a surface used for just one thing, and it's the secondary uses that often determine your choices."
The dozens of different materials are matched by dozens of different performance qualities best for different sports, with a quick lesson in physics and biomechanics necessary for each sport (see chart on page 9).
In basketball, for example, floors need to return energy to maximize the ball's bounce, enable athletes to jump well and allow for quick pivot turns. Meanwhile, tennis courts need to return energy for bounce as well, but to a lesser extent, and must enable horizontal movement by athletes—a controlled slide.
While a park district may consider artificial turf for a facility primarily used for soccer, Cottingham notes, volleyball may be a secondary use. Since artificial turf doesn't allow athletes the foot slides necessary in volleyball, this would be a poor choice that could lead to injury. There's a lot of factors to consider.
Likewise, a school may plan a field house and consider putting in a smooth surface in the center. But if the school follows through with plans to place six tennis courts there, textured surfaces more appropriate to tennis should be used. You get the picture.