Guest Column - April 2011
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Sports Surfaces

Selecting Sports Surfaces for Your Facility

By Ken Chmura and Joe Corbet

Choosing the appropriate sport flooring for your recreational facility is a major investment that will have an important impact on the use, potential revenue and facility maintenance costs. What follows is a list of six important steps to take when planning a sports complex addition, constructing a new sports venue or renovating a sports facility.

1. Prioritize Your Activities

When selecting sports flooring for your facility, you must first organize your needs by listing and prioritizing all the activities that will take place in the space. For example, ask yourself what level of sports and recreation will occur. Will there be high-level sports tournaments, as well as youth sports camps conducted in the facility? Also, what types of sports will be played on the flooring? Consider if the space will be multi-use and hold community events, banquets or assemblies. You should list how many times a week each type of special event will take place. Lastly, evaluate which type of events will drive most of your revenue and plan accordingly with the right kind of flooring.

2. Understand Your Options

As with any big purchase, you must weigh your options and make an educated and informed decision.

Multipurpose activity normally eliminates wood flooring as an option because it is not designed to handle these kinds of activities and will create a much higher maintenance cost due to refinishing requirements throughout its life cycle.

Rubber flooring, on the other hand, can handle multipurpose activities, but a high coefficient of friction for basketball, volleyball and indoor soccer, and therefore is not a safe alternative if these sports are part of your plan. Coefficient of friction measures the grip and slide of a floor and is a crucial element to consider with sports play.

Poured-in-place flooring used to be a popular selection, but prices have greatly increased to meet VOC (volatile organic compound) requirements, and it is typically available only in solid colors. They also require additional coating that makes them far more expensive than the initial installed price.

Snap-together tiles are yet another option and are inexpensive, but certainly don't have the playing characteristics or the image that most facilities are hoping to create. The old adage, "you get what you pay for" definitely holds true with this type of floor covering.

A popular selection that combines excellent sports performance properties and the ability to host multipurpose events is vinyl flooring. However, not all vinyl sports floors are made the same. A good multipurpose and sports vinyl flooring should consist of a multi-layered construction of pure vinyl, double density backing and close cell foam backing with a reinforced fiberglass grid. This type of construction combines the benefits of shock absorption and ball rebound (bounce) needed for sports activities, as well as indention resistance and recovery to furniture and heavy foot traffic.