Feature Article - July/August 2005
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A Complete Guide to Sports Surfaces and Flooring

Sure Footing

By Kyle Ryan

In the city of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, temperatures average above 90 degrees for 213 days a year. From May to August, high temperatures average above 100 degrees. Cloud cover? Negligible—the city only gets about 20 days or so with rain annually.

The climate, obviously, is punishing for anything that has to bear the elements. When the city decided to build Comiche Park, a new area with recreational facilities and a cycling and walking path, it needed a strong surface to use on the trail, not something that would deteriorate when faced with UV rays. Planners eventually settled on a nonabrasive, reinforced acrylic coating designed to withstand the elements and numerous types of activities.

Will it work? As summer continues on in the Middle East, park managers should find out pretty quickly. While not all environments are as extreme as Abu Dhabi's, that doesn't mean managers of a climate-controlled indoor track in San Diego should do any less research before resurfacing. Choose the wrong type of

surface, and people will stay away from it, and that means less revenue. Choose the right surface but have the wrong installation or maintenance methods—same scenario.

There are a number of factors that determine what type of surface will work for each part of a facility. Not surprisingly, the process has grown more complex as technology has advanced—but that also means more opportunities to create the perfect fit.

D.J. Bosse, owner of Bosse Sports, a health club in Sudbury, Mass., saw the potential when he opened his club two years ago.

"The whole key was to differentiate my club from other clubs, and [I thought] I could differentiate my club through surfaces," he says. "The philosophy across the board is to really have a high-end finish throughout the club, and you bring that in through surfaces."


Track designer Don Paige has a simple motto: safety first, functionality second, maintenance third. Although he's referring to his personal guiding principles when it comes to track-and-field design, the advice works for anything—who wouldn't want a safe, functional, low-maintenance surface?

"If it's not safe, nobody will ever use it," says Paige, who's president of the Paige Design Group in Bahama, N.C. "After we know it's safe, the next thing we look at from our sports side is the functionality of it, which makes sure it's as functional as possible. The third thing we always try to look at is making sure it's maintenance-friendly. We try to make sure the facilities don't require a lot of maintenance because maintenance can become very costly, and schools don't have the proper maintenance personnel to maintain a facility."

A really nice surfacing system will fall into disrepair if a facility is ill-equipped to handle it. Luckily, though, as technology creates more durable and versatile materials, it's also creating more hassle-free ways to keep them in good condition.

Using those three rules as guidelines for new surface systems will help you find the right one—and it has to be unanimous. A surface that's functional and safe but requires too much maintenance won't work. Neither will a somewhat functional, low-maintenance surface that's unsafe. If it's not all three, it wasn't meant to be.


1. SAFETY: Unsafe facilities don't get used.

2. FUNCTIONAL: Make sure the surface will do the job it needs to do.

3. LOW MAINTENANCE: The less maintenance involved, the better.