A Court for Every Need

Improve Playability, Longevity Maintenance & More

By Julie Knudson

When you're looking for the right surface for your indoor sports courts, there are a lot of factors to consider, from playability and longevity to maintenance requirements and beyond. You also must take into account the unique situation of your facility and its users. Here, we've collected some examples of how other facilities made their surface decisions.

Johnson County Park and Recreation District

When Johnson County Park and Recreation District (JCPRD) was ready to install combined basketball and volleyball courts in its new facility, the New Century Fieldhouse in New Century, Kan., money played a role in the decision. "Finances dictated a little bit how much we could spend on the floor," said Jill Geller, superintendent of recreation. With more than 50,000 square feet of court space to cover, JCPRD didn't have the funds for hardwood floors, though Geller isn't sure that would have been their preference. "We did some research with other community centers and gymnasiums," she said, and based on positive comments about one manufacturer's synthetic court surface, the district made its decision.

The venue is a busy one, and the court areas—which are lined for basketball, volleyball and even futsal—are used for youth and adult leagues in addition to frequent weekend events. "Quite often we lease the facility out to different tournament directors, who host state, regional and national tournaments," Geller said. "It's busy all the time."

Completed in May 2011, Geller said the facility's court surfaces have performed well. "We haven't had any concerns expressed by players about the surface, or from any of the tournament directors," she said. "We do solicit their feedback after their events, and they've all spoken very highly of the surface and the facility." And even though the courts are lined for multiple sports, Geller said there hasn't been any confusion or difficulty distinguishing the different areas of play. "I think our contractor did a great job with colors of the lines."

JCPRD's maintenance staff tends to the new floors daily to keep the surface in good shape. "We try to keep it looking new at all times," Geller said. A floor machine is used for a clean, dust-free surface, and scuff marks get closer attention. "We do those with a little bit of elbow grease, but again just to prolong the life of the floor," she explained.

Bleachers are regularly placed on top of the floor, but Geller said they haven't caused any problems. "We try not to leave them in one spot for any length of time, because it will dimple the floor," she said, adding that once the bleachers have been relocated, the dimples pop back out.

Geller said that research is the key to selecting the right court surface, and encourages other centers to do their due diligence. "Evaluate what's going to be on the floor, and then contact other community centers or agencies that have similar facilities to get their recommendation," she said. "That's what we did, and we have been pleased."

YMCA of Greater New Orleans

The YMCA of Greater New Orleans got a financial boost through a grant from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and with it they refurbished their facility's old wood basketball court. Glen Coffee, sports and fitness director at the Y, said that first an experienced contractor was brought in to breathe new life into the old floor. "They completely sanded it and cleaned it really well, and then the artist came in and put down the art and the lines."

In addition to the YMCA logo in the middle of the floor, an NCAA logo was included near the gym's perimeter lines. Once the art was dry, polyurethane was applied to protect the floor. "It looks really neat," Coffee said. From start to finish, the project took a couple of weeks. Sanding and buffing occupied several days, with the artistry taking another three or four days. The polyurethane coating required five days or so to cure.

Daily maintenance consists of a good sweeping, plus an occasional swipe with a barely-damp mop. "With a wood floor like that, water shouldn't come in contact with it," Coffee explained. The facility also has strict rules, with policies such as no candy and no eating in the gym area. About once a year, the floor undergoes a light sanding, after which new polyurethane is put down to restore the finish and provide the floor with a measure of protection.

When asked if the floor needs or receives rest periods, Coffee laughed. "Not that I know of." The refurbished floor serves the entire community, and also doubles as a volleyball court, using the two sets of volleyball equipment donated by the NCAA. Coffee said that having a wood floor gives the facility a welcome feature. "The kids love it; the adults love it," Coffee said. "It really makes us unique. It's a great resource for the whole community to take advantage of."

YMCA of Rome and Floyd County

Unlike the YMCA in New Orleans, which was able to spiff up its original surface, a moisture problem forced the YMCA of Rome and Floyd County in Georgia to completely replace its old court. After implementing a solution to the water problem—one they weren't sure would be entirely effective—executive director Scott McCreless said they needed to find a new surface. "We started looking for a product that would work even if we did have another moisture issue," he said.

Before McCreless made the selection final, he visited an elementary school in Augusta that was already using the surface under consideration. "I wanted to actually feel the basketball bounce on it and see how it played," he explained.

Installed in December 2011, the new floor has been in place long enough for McCreless to confirm he's pleased with it. "I was a little nervous when we put the floor in, because anybody that plays basketball obviously wants a hardwood floor," he said. But feedback from players has been positive, and the new floor has shown it can support a range of sports. "We use our floor not only for basketball, but we also do school PE on it as well as special events," McCreless said. "It's a great multiuse floor for us. We really like that aspect of it a lot."

Because the floor plays host to so many different activities, McCreless said it doesn't get much downtime. "I don't know if there are manufacturer's recommended rest periods or not, but we don't give it a whole lot of rest," he said. It's a typical scenario for most nonprofits, who strive to keep their areas busy. "There is constantly something going on," McCreless mused.

No maintenance issues have come up with the new floor, though McCreless said that his team has occasionally noticed movement of the maple overlay when bleachers are rolled onto the surface. The fix is easy, and involves pulling up the maple, spraying adhesive underneath, and reattaching the overlay. After that, McCreless said the floor is fine. There are also one or two dead spots, though McCreless said they're likely a result of the previous water damage. "We just went directly over the old poured floor," he said.

If a piece of floor does go bad, McCreless said the solution is as easy as popping out the problem piece and putting down another. "Anybody can do it," he said. McCreless said the floor has been perfect for the setting at the Y, and he regularly recommends the product to others. "A lot of people call me and ask about it, and we certainly have nothing but good things to say."

Yuba College

As with the water damage at the YMCA in Rome, sometimes you just don't know what you'll find when you remove an existing surface. Such was the case at Yuba College in Marysville, Calif. After removing an old wood floor, it was discovered that the depression underneath was deep and uneven. A wood floor was selected as a replacement, giving the surface uniformity and support even with the facility's less-than-ideal underlayment.

The result, said Tomas Rodriguez, the college's equipment manager, is an attractive court with playability that pleases head coach Doug Cornelius. "He's comfortable with the way the wood looks and the way it bounces," Rodriguez said. Even though the installation was tricky, Rodriguez said that Cornelius hasn't found any dead spots. "Everything is fine on it as far as that goes," he said. The sealant, however, didn't turn out the way they hoped. "It started chipping after about two months," Rodriguez said. The college is still working to resolve the problem, which affects the looks of the court but not its performance.

Both basketball and volleyball are played on the new surface, as well as a daily badminton class. Being a busy environment, Rodriguez said that the old floor "had more lines on it than you could shake a stick at."

During the installation of the new court, Cornelius was committed to developing a less obtrusive design. "He wanted to make sure that, if you were on the sidelines or in the stands, you would barely notice the badminton court," Rodriguez said. That mission was accomplished. A clean paint scheme adorns the new floor, and fans and players are no longer confused by a jumble of competing lines.

Frequent sweeping limits dust and dirt, and the new floor is typically damp mopped before game days. "They want to make sure it's not too slippery, so they'll mop it before the game and give it time to dry," Rodriguez said. Ensuring that students wear appropriate shoes and reducing traffic through the space has also helped keep the floor in top shape. "In the past, people walked on the floor because it was a way to go from one class to another," Rodriguez said. The building has since been redesigned, and transient foot traffic has dropped significantly.

"We're excited," Rodriguez said of the new floor. The wood on the old court was getting thin and developing cracks, and Rodriguez said there were a number of dead spots. Yuba's new court is a great-looking, great-playing step up. "Having something like this, you really appreciate the wood floor and what it looks like when it's new," he said.

University of Nebraska - Lincoln

If you're considering a portable synthetic floor and you want to know what it's really like, ask the guy who has to lay it down and roll it up before and after every game. At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), that guy is building services technician Scott Schroeder.

"For the most part, it should be a permanent floor," he said of the new volleyball court surface. "But because of our situation, we're making it portable."

The surface is in rolls that Schroeder said are about six feet wide and nearly 400 pounds. "We finally had to have them cut it; it was too big to handle," he recalled.

After playing for 15 years on what Schroeder described as "a lovely wood floor" featuring six inches of cushion underneath, the athletics department decided the players would benefit from something a little more forgiving. "One of the selling points is that it reduces a lot of wear and tear on the players," Schroeder said of the synthetic surface. That old wood floor is still in place, but the Huskers volleyball team now plays their games with the synthetic surface on top.

Competing pressures for court space led UNL to select a floor that could be installed, moved and removed. The recreation center supports not only volleyball, but also basketball and other activities. And while the floor would do best with 24 hours to "relax" once it's been unrolled, Schroeder said they don't usually have that kind of time. "We unroll it and then tape it down to the existing floor," he explained, adding that double-sided tape accomplishes the task. The floor moves, shrinks and expands as it settles in, but Schroeder said "once it's down, it's very nice." After the floor has been secured, Schroeder's team tapes on the out-of-bounds and 10-foot lines.

Installing and removing the floor requires additional time and staff resources, something Schroeder said organizations need to understand if they want to get the best performance out of their floor. After working with the new surface for a year, he said the relaxation requirements should definitely be followed whenever feasible. "You can either fight it or you can let it do what it needs to do and then work with it," he said. Another advantage of the portable floor: When the Huskers play at other venues, they have the option of bringing their home turf with them.

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