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

By Margaret Ahrweiler


Sometimes surface solutions mean using existing materials in a new way. In a program made possible through a state grant, the Wheaton Park District has combined a number of existing materials for a new playground surface that will improve accessibility and comfort. After installing all new playground equipment at its Kelly Park, the district put down 5,000 square feet of an experimental surface consisting of a poly extruded mat on top of 4-inch-thick bags of shredded rubber made from chopped up tires. The bags, which each cover about 2-1/2 square feet, were laid like pavers, atop a washed stone base for drainage. A one-inch layer of loose shredded rubber topped the bags for leveling, and then the mat was laid from rolls that ranged from 25 to 50 feet long and 5 to 6 feet wide, with three-inch overlaps glued using an elasticized adhesive. The park district first installed the system in a smaller park, which helped it come up with the right formula for the amount of rubber in the bags and the best way to lay the mats.

Ken Kutska, Wheaton's director of parks and planning, says the surface has garnered rave reviews from the community. He and his staff are watching closely to see how the surface holds up to the drastic temperature and humidity variations of Chicagoland weather and is hoping for a long life span. It plans to use the surface, created in part with a research grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs' used tire recovery program, at other parks in the district.


When you get that fine hardwood dining table, you wouldn't let a dozen messy children throw a party on it without a pad and tablecloth, would you? Same goes with sports floors: to protect your investment, cover it up.

Several firms offer covering systems, typically on rollers that can be tucked away in storage rooms or even hung from gymnasium ceilings. Many architects, including Ankeny Kell Architects, recommend making room in the budget for covers.

"If you're doing, say a pancake breakfast, you can do a lot of damage between spills and the impact from folding tables and chairs," says Ankeny Kell's Mike Matthys. According to one manufacturer, a rec center looking to cover a 60-by-100-foot gymnasium would expect to pay around $5,000 for a complete mid-grade cover package, which would include the covering on a roller, a rack to hang and transport that roll, mounted brushes that automatically clean the cover, and a power winder. The vinyl coverings come in a variety of weights ranging from 16 to 22 ounces and are warrantied for five to 10 years depending on their type.

The only drawback to covers is storage. Even on rollers, they can be heavy and bulky. Matthys recommends designing in storage space during planning for new construction or trying to eke out space during a renovation.