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Feature Article - March 2019
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Select Your Surface

Sports & Fitness Flooring Fundamentals for Your Facility

By Rick Dandes


When setting up a new fitness facility, or renovating an existing space, it's crucial that you select the most suitable flooring for your sports and fitness purposes. After all, your clients' health and safety will be greatly affected by the surface on which they perform. But choosing the right flooring system for your athletics facility can sometimes feel like a daunting task.

There are many things to consider when making flooring selections for different sports and fitness applications. "The first thing to do," said John Gleason, marketing manager of a Utica, N.Y., sports flooring manufacturer, "is to clearly identify what fitness applications, as well as non-fitness applications the room is going to be used for. There are many surfaces available that will be suitable for multiple applications, but you want to be sure that the surface you choose will be conducive for all of the applications."

The flooring industry is changing. "Now, we're really trying to think about the users," said Bo Barker, vice president of sales of an athletic flooring manufacturer in Lancaster, Pa. "When you start to think about a fitness application, you really have to think about what people are doing in the space. Then choose the flooring that is appropriate for the people who are going to be using that space."

Once you know what fitness applications the area is going to be used for, you can identify which surfaces are suitable by reviewing industry publications and articles.

"This will likely provide you with a broad list that must now be narrowed down by the budget you have in place to fund your investment," Gleason said. "Once you know which products are within your budget, there are also many other things to consider. One thing to think about is if you are purchasing the surface to be installed permanently in a facility that you own or if it is going to be installed in a rented space. If you are in a rented space, you may want to consider flooring options that will be portable."

A portable surface will give you the flexibility to take the surface with you should you ever have to move and not have to leave your investment in your previous facility, Gleason explained.

Some permanently installed surfaces have specific temperature and humidity conditions that must be maintained, so you must ensure that your facility's HVAC system can accommodate those requirements. You must also be mindful of the maintenance requirements of the surface that you choose so that you can be sure to account for that in your annual budget to keep your surface performing the way it was intended.

In gyms, Gleason said, "you will also want to be aware of the equipment used and the impact that will have on the surface. The weight load of portable basketball goals and bleachers can be something that influences what surface you can ultimately choose. You will want to carefully examine the surface warranties and make sure that your facility will be able to comply with those requirements."

There are many surfaces available that will be suitable for multiple applications, but you want to be sure that the surface you choose will be conducive for all of the applications.

Once you find the type of surface that is most suitable for the applications and environment, you should make sure to choose a qualified installer. Manufacturers of quality sports surfacing should be able to provide you with a way for your surface to be installed professionally to ensure that it will comply with any warranty requirements.

The big thing to realize, Gleason said, "is that the surface you choose for your facility can leave a lasting impact on the people who use it. You want to make sure that the surface you choose will provide your clients with the best possible experience that will bring them back to your facility. You don't necessarily have to pay for the highest-grade surface to achieve this, but you do need to make sure that the expectations of those people who use your facility are met and they are not left disappointed with your choice of surface."

Tami Savage, international sales manager for a Salt Lake City-based manufacturer and supplier of modular sports flooring, said, "To help the customer select the best solution for their gym or fitness area we ask several questions to narrow down the best options for them to consider, such as:

  • What are the primary sports the gym will be used for?
  • What non-sport activities will take place on the court?
  • If the project is to retrofit an existing area, what is currently in place, and what is the condition of this floor?
  • Will the surfacing be installed permanently, semi-permanently or on a temporary basis as needed?
  • What level of performance does the facility need? Will they host championship tournaments? Do they need a product that has a lot of cushion and shock absorption? Or are they simply looking for an entry-level surface option?

Options in Fitness Spaces

A fitness room is such a broad term, noted William Thornton, North American technical manager for a sports flooring company in Calhoun, Ga. "You really have to look at the activities in the space. Are users going to be doing free weights? And if so, what kind of free weights? Are they using treadmills, stair steps? Fixed or portable equipment? Is the space going to be dedicated to a purpose, or are they also going to expand that space and use it for aerobics?"

When you talk about flooring in exercise spaces or fitness areas, explained Steve Hayes, sales manager for a Peshtigo, Wis.-based flooring manufacturer, "you really have several options. You have a synthetic option, which could be recycled rubber, urethane or prefabricated rubber. There are a lot of different products that comprise the group of synthetics. Vinyl is used more on the courts than it would be in a fitness space. The marketplace is trending toward rubber as the product in areas that contain weight equipment—either recycled or virgin rubber. I'm not seeing a whole lot of urethane flooring in weight rooms."