Feature Article - July/August 2004
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Special Supplement:
Recreation Management’s Complete Guide to Sports Surfaces and Flooring

By Margaret Ahrweiler

More to floors than gyms

While competition and multipurpose spaces take up the most space—and the most concern—for flooring, the rest of your facility needs to be covered as well. Other key flooring spots include fitness and weight areas, climbing walls, pools and locker rooms, and even lobbies.

In weight rooms, rubberized flooring systems in a variety of forms have become the product of choice. Either synthetic or natural, in rolls or tile, designers often favor theses surfaces for their sound-deadening and shock-absorbing capabilities.

"I like it rubber because it's recyclable, forgiving and very durable," Bean says. The vast number of colors available also gives designers the opportunity to get a little playful with a room's look.

Rubberized surfaces in weight and fitness areas don't require the same biomechanical features as their gym counterparts—in fact, they require an opposite performance.

"On a court, you may be looking at how a ball rolls, but in a weight room, the one thing you do not want is something rolling down the hall," Chappel says.

Rubberized surfaces also get regular use in climbing wall areas. The climbing wall industry is still working on standards for surfaces around walls. In the meantime, however, many architects are specifying rubberized surfaces with extra cushioning underneath. Other facilities lay heavy mats over existing surfaces. In cardiovascular and circuit-training equipment areas, however, rubberized surfaces face off against carpeting in popularity. Carpeting provides a homey, comfortable feel, says Werner Braun, director of the Carpet and Rug Institute, and people in carpeted areas are reportedly seven times less likely to fall from slipping than on other surfaces. It also helps absorb sound in noisy fitness areas, he adds.

Many architects, including TMP and Ankeny Kell, frequently specify antimicrobial carpeting, which is treated with chemicals that inhibit the growth of bacteria and other microbes to combat germs and odors. But Braun says these products aren't necessary if a facility puts a good carpet maintenance program in place.

His take on antimicrobials: "Not long ago, a company that was promoting an antimicrobial gave me a pair of athletic socks and a shirt that had been treated with their product. They said if you wore them for three days, they wouldn't stink and sure enough, after three days they had no odor. I don't know about you, but I have no interest in wearing socks for three days."

Similarly, he adds, if your antimicrobial carpeting has been soaked with sweat and not cleaned properly, it might not smell, but it wouldn't be clean.

Braun suggests that proper maintenance can take the place of antimicrobial treatments: good mats outside the room to keep dirt away, regular vacuuming at least three to four times a week, daily spot cleaning for things like spilled Gatorade, and hot water or steam cleaning about once a week, with a good extractor and a well-trained crew.

Snow packed into the crevices of sport shoes can take up to half an hour to melt. To combat this, at the Oakland University Student Recreation Center in Rochester, Mich., part of the Great Lakes "snow belt," the design team recommended heavy-duty mats to help student shoes shed snow and slush before they reach gym floors.

At University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa's Fitness and Recreation Center, planners also specified heavy-duty mats to screen out the red clay that students tracked inside.

A few trouble spots to guard against with carpeting, Matthys notes: Carpet can break down underneath the fitness equipment from the machines' motion, especially with treadmills elevating for different inclines. He suggests laying pads under the equipment. He also favors carpet tiles rather than rolls, since rolled goods can bubble if heavy equipment gets moved across it frequently.