Feature Article - July/August 2006
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Special Supplement: Complete Guide to Sports Surfaces and Flooring

Something's Afoot

By Kara Spak

Carol Hogan, executive vice president of the American Sports Builders Association, agrees that the group or person installing the new surface needs to figure out exactly what is going to be happening there first.

"I think the most important thing really is to understand the many options and understand what use you're going to put the surface to," Hogan says.

She suggests then narrowing it down by asking if there will be staff present to maintain it, like at a professional-style tennis club, or if the surface will be open for anyone to use it, like a tennis court at a public park where people may come to play recreational tennis, but they also might use it for skateboarding or as a fenced-in dog run.

"Be realistic about your needs," Hogan says. "This is about understanding your options and choosing the best choice for you."

Hogan says selecting good partners to take the surface journey with you will help get you to your destination, on time and on budget.

"Very often public projects require you use the low bid," she says. "But if the low bidder doesn't know what they are doing, that is not a good value. People look at tennis courts and see a rectangle and think, 'How hard can that be?' I build driveways. I can do that. Well, not really because there is a degree of perfection required by athletic surfaces that is far greater than a parking lot and driveway."

An expert needs to know where to draw the markings and properly put down the surface or else your new court, field or track could suddenly become a safety hazard.

"You have to know what the lines are," she says. "You have to know the safety considerations. You really need someone who is familiar with athletic design and construction."

Water management is also key regardless of what type of surface you are using. Shoes and boots track water into indoor facilities just as easily as rain falls on an outdoor field or tennis court. Regulating the amount of water can be a vital component of surface maintenance. It can also be a somewhat complicated one.

"There are more and more regulations regarding water management," Hogan says. "There are regulations by the local government. There are regulations about runoff, pollution, hazardous materials, wetlands and endangered species."

Hire someone who is aware of the regulations and who can work easily with them to design a drainage system that meets all the requirements but still can protect the surface.

"This is not for someone who doesn't know what they're doing," she says.

The American Sports Builders Association offers a competitive awards program designed to encourage excellence in construction. Hogan says the awards are given for a number of factors, but the amount of money spent is not one of them. You can have an award-winning facility—and a spectacular surface—within your budget.

Start your journey to floor perfection by asking yourself the following questions:

USE: What will you use the floor for? Who will play on the floor? What requirements do you need to meet so your floor can be played on at certain levels of play? If you plan to use the floor for multipurpose uses, is there one sport that will be used for the majority of time?

COST: How much does the floor cost initially? How much will maintenance cost? Break the costs down by total cost and per use cost—which is lower? Which is more important to you or your organization? How much will the surface cost in terms of people power? Does the surface need to be monitored? Will additional staff be needed?

LOOK: What type of look are you seeking? Do you want it to look modern? Vintage? Colorful? What are the limitations in terms of designs for a particular flooring material? How does it look under existing lighting? How easily does it clean or hold dirt?

INSTALLATION: Can your staff install the floor to perfection? Can the manufacturer install it? How much will this cost? Will you need to close part of your facility for installation? If yes, for how long? How will you let people know of the potential closures?

LASTING SURFACES: How long does your surface last? How long will it last if not properly maintained? How long will is last if used as you plan to use it?

SAFETY: What are the safety requirements for a particular surface? Does your surface meet safety requirements? If not, how will you ensure safe use of the area?

PERFORMANCE: What are the performance requirements you are hoping to meet? Does the surface meet them? Does the top-performing floor meet the needs you have established for the area?