Feature Article - February 2011
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Maintenance Series: Gymnasiums

Beauty and the Beast: Maintaining Your Gym

By Dawn Klingensmith


Depending on your type of flooring and manufacturer's specifications, "a walk-behind auto scrubber" with white buff pads may be used to clean the floor, said Thomas Mindek, housekeeping supervisor for the facilities management and planning department at Eastern Connecticut State University at Willimantic. "Anything more aggressive or coarse would scuff the floor."

"When using the auto scrubber to wash the gym floor, which we try to do two to three times a week, staff need to be diligent in keeping an eye on the pad soil and wear, being sure to turn or replace the white pads as needed," he added.

To be sure, the biggest cause of wear and tear to a gym floor is the concentrated traffic or action on specific areas, such as near the volleyball net or where basketball players slide, shuffle, halt and jump. After a year of use, a typical gym floor will need to be resealed. Arrowsmith said that this is one maintenance responsibility that's tempting to skip due to tight budgets and the expense of having it done.

"My advice is to not put this off," he warned. "It's easy to say, 'We'll just skip it this year.' But if you stay on top of it, your floors will last longer."

Sanding should be done very infrequently and only by a hired professional. It's a delicate process and if done wrong, it can ruin your floor.

Hoop Dreams

Having addressed the beauty and the beast, let's look more closely at basketball backstop upkeep, which Warner, of Sports Facilities Group, said is the most overlooked component of gymnasium maintenance. "I've seen many cases where the system has not been touched since it was installed," he said.

That's dangerous, he added, because parts need to be lubricated and components replaced due to vibration and other forces. "You have bolts holding (the system) into the ceiling, hinges, electric winches, and a hoist cable that spools and unspools and starts to deteriorate. Slam-dunking causes an extreme amount of stress.

"Here in California, earthquakes are a concern," he added. "I have seen these things fall out of the ceiling."

Every basketball season in Southern California, one or two basketball backstop failures come to Warner's attention. "They can fall out of the ceiling and swing violently, hitting the wall and breaking the glass," he said. "We've seen schools have to replace chunks of the gym floor or fix holes in the wall. It has happened often enough, it's alarming. No one we know of has been seriously injured, but it's only a matter of time."

Indeed, farther up the West Coast in Gervais, Ore., a middle school student was hospitalized in December after a basketball hoop fell on her. According to a student witness and news reports, the hoop hit her and then swung back and hit her again, causing serious injuries.

Speaking to the press, the district superintendent seemed mystified: "The hoop is on a fulcrum. It doesn't fall—it swings and it just came down. We don't know why. We're investigating it."