Supplement Feature - September 2009
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Floor It!

Finding the Right Sports Flooring

By Richard Zowie

When it comes to cleaning, they use two methods: a standard mop and even a Zamboni machine that mops (normally, Zambonis are associated with smoothing ice hockey surfaces during intermissions of a hockey game).

Some synthetic solutions combine wood and synthetics to create the ideal solution, like the new gym floor at the Jefferson-Independence Blue Cross Wellness Center at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. The new floor features a resilient vinyl surface layer with a DIN-certified wood subfloor. The 6,000-square foot gym originally featured a maple floor, which was more than 40 years old before its replacement in May 2008.

"It had definitely reached the end of its useful life and had been refinished several times," said TJU activities office and bookstore director Patricia Haas.

The wellness center's basketball and racquetball courts are actually located in a sub-basement, and the sports there are for recreational purposes and not intercollegiate play. The location tends to have water problems, such as leaks in the building that get down to the sub-basement. Once it got into the wooden floor, Haas explained, it resulted in a compromised floor that was difficult to repair. Also, since it's located under the outside atria, the roof tends to leak.

Haas recalled a sprinkler accident that caused the hardwood court to be closed down for a month. After the water was absorbed from the court, the floor buckled and had to be dried out with blowers and dehumidified. A few times portions of the flooring were taken out and replaced, which compromised the floor.

"You had different types of wood in there, and the wood behaves differently when different types are in there," she explained. "The surface isn't always smooth and screws were in different sections."

With this in mind, they wanted to find a surface that still had the look of wood along with other important characteristics.

"It was important for us to identify a synthetic floor that would give us the same service as a wooden one for ball return and for players' comfort," Haas noted. "We also wanted one that would look like a wooden floor and help us with the water issue."

So far, the new solution has worked well. "The players are very happy, and we don't have issues related to wood," Haas said.

The multipurpose floor is used for many sports besides basketball: volleyball, badminton, tennis, floor hockey and even normally-outdoor sports like soccer and football. Because the university is located in downtown Philadelphia, there are no fields outdoors to accommodate recreational players of these sports.

"This floor helped us expand our programming," Haas said. "Wood was not appropriate for some of these sports."

Maintenance is as simple as wet mopping or using a buffering machine.

"The base has the potential to last a long time," Haas said. "The vinyl surface layer is what would need to be replaced."