Feature Article - November 2006
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Magnificently Multipurpose

Managing all-around facilities

By Kelli Anderson

Getting comfortable

Sight, sound, touch and smell—pretty much all the senses are a guide in designing a multipurpose space. Having good airflow with properly sized and designed mechanical systems and individual temperature control is part of the sensory equation. A poor ventilation system not only will be a turnoff for the aerobics class sweatin' to the oldies, but also won't make a great impression on the home-school group trying to use the space afterward.

Even seating requirements can change from group to group depending on the number of people involved or the atmosphere you are trying to create. Bleacher seating can comfortably accommodate a larger group than auditorium seating, but bringing out the comfy padded chairs for smaller groups is ideal for more upscale or intimate events.

Sure footing

For many facilities, choosing the best floor to suit multipurpose needs is the most daunting task. With every sport having different movement needs or using different equipment, from basketballs to cleated shoes, choosing a playing surface can be difficult.

Add to that the durability needed to withstand tables, chairs, food spills or, in Blackstone's case, trucks, and you've got your work cut out for you. So where do you begin?

The most important determinant is budget, but second is most often maintenance. The sad truth is that no matter how much money a facility has to throw at a flooring product, if they are unwilling or unable to properly care for it, it's money down the drain.

"It really comes down to how a facility is going to maintain and operate," Grundstrom said. "We can push the most cutting-edge product, but if they don't have the ability or expertise to care for the flooring, they'll have to rip it up anyway. Basing your flooring on likes and dislikes is a good measure. In other words, don't buy a stick shift when you want an automatic." Honestly assess what you can and can't or will or won't do.

At the Hynes Athletic Center at Iona College in New Rochelle, N.Y., which opened earlier this year, ease of maintenance ranked high for its 15,000 square feet of flooring surface.

"The biggest thing is that it's easy to clean and maintain," said Matt Thompson, co-director for recreation and intramurals. "It's easy to clean up spills."

The college's flooring choice has been a win-win for its wood-like quality with low maintenance effort and no need for refinishing.

Another critical factor in flooring selection is understanding the users. Know what the most important activities are and their frequency.

At Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., an athletic rubberized surface was selected based on the importance of athletic practices requiring cleated shoes.

"We had to have spikeable surfaces," explained Terry Rivers, recreation director, "and be long-wearing."

In addition, they were willing to go the financial- and maintenance-distance, purchasing and providing storage for riding scrubbers and cleaners required for the flooring surface.

For those multipurpose facilities looking for a more traditional flooring surface that will need just occasional protection from non-athletic uses, storage space might be the best answer.

"You also have to design for the most common everyday use," Grundstrom said. "Build a contingency plan for those once-or-twice-a-year things—roll out a rubber sheet, mats or floor cover."

Storing protective floor coverings for those rare events might be the solution to an otherwise more costly or less welcome flooring compromise.

In some situations, the frequency of non-athletic activities is high enough that taking the time and energy to roll out protective coverings or to seam them together for large spaces is simply not practical. Be thorough and diligent in your flooring search. There is a flooring surface to meet almost every need.

"The most amazing thing is our flooring—it's phenomenal," Jackman said. "It's great for playing basketball, but so rugged you can drive trucks on it—and we do. It's attractive but doesn't have to be refinished. A lot of research was done."