Feature Article - July 2007
Find a printable version here

Special Supplement: Complete Guide to Sports & Recreation Surfaces

By Dana Carman

The sandwich system is exactly what it sounds like: three layers with the same black SBR granule basemat on the bottom, which is then sealed with polyurethane to make the surface nonporous (the basemat system is a porous surface). The whole thing is finished off with a top layer of specially formulated polyurethane into which EPDM granules have been embedded or encapsulated before curing. This system can range from $45 to $50 per square yard installed.

Lastly, the full-pour polyurethane system is a layering system of poured-in-place liquid polyurethane, which is also nonporous. This system is the most expensive of the three and, according to Paige, the better of them.

"This system bonds to the asphalt the best because the liquid grabs onto the pores in the asphalt," Paige said. "The better bond you have, the less chance you'll have of delamination."

Paige also noted that this system allows for ease in resurfacing down the line, while the other two systems would require the basemat to be pulled up and a new surface to be put down. In this case, the up-front cost may be higher (the full-pour system can cost in the area of $60 per square yard), but the maintenance over its lifespan would be more minimal compared to the other two systems.

When it comes to rubber products, there's primarily just one type. It's a prefabricated product that rolls right on down and around the curve of the track and is glued on with a polyurethane adhesive. The rolls are as wide as the lanes of the track, and the seams fall under the 2-inch painted lines.

According to Paige, the polyurethane tracks are the more widely used products, though the answer as to why that is would vary.

"Track and field coaches have preferences like anyone else about products they like and don't like," he explained. "They train and compete on these different products every week. There are also perceptions in the marketplace. Perceptions aren't always true, but they are reality. Perception is a big thing in athletics."

Paige noted that most of the polyurethane and rubber products on the market today have been approved using the same IAAF standards, so scientifically speaking, one has not been proven to be better than the other. Therefore, it's important to Paige that track and field designers provide educational information to users so they can make a truly informed decision on what will work best for their needs.

In addition to the IAAF standards, tracks also must adhere to NCAA rules and regulations, which are strict guidelines as to the slope of the track. From the outside running lane to the inside running lane, the slope cannot exceed 1 percent or one in 100. That's pretty tough, but there's a tougher tolerance yet. The downhill slope, whether on a runway or for any field event, cannot exceed 0.1 percent or one in 1,000. Paige recommends facility managers purchase the NCAA rulebook to ensure their facilities are in compliance with these requirements.

The time of year you want construction to commence on your new track is also something you should plan for in advance. The majority of all tracks are put in between May and September. However, if you're in a climate that is warmer year-round, consider winter track construction as crews may have more free time and pricing may work to your advantage. Also consider the rain patterns in your part of the country as rain and polyurethane just don't mix, according to Paige. Weather can definitely affect the project timeframe, so it's important to budget not only costs but also time to complete construction.