Feature Article - July 2011
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Design For All Times

Trends in Sports Facility Design

By Dawn Klingensmith

Ground-Level Design Changes

For gymnasium flooring, "wood is still the predominant preference," Warner said, "but there are so many design options available now."

"Floor technology has changed," he continued, so even if you opt for traditional maple, it might be milled in such a way that it provides greater durability and less environmental impact.

Where Warner works in California, floor varnishes are water-based as opposed to solvent-based to comply with stricter code requirements. "It's better for the environment, but water-based varnishes wear out faster and can be more difficult to apply, although they do dry faster," he said. "You have to refinish more often. In high-use or dusty climates, you may need to refinish the floor two times a year. Sooner or later, I expect they will reformulate water-based varnish to make it more durable. It does not necessarily offer a cost improvement for now, but it's an answer to environmental regulations."

Synthetic gym floors previously were a low-cost option for budget-conscious builders like the YMCA or church facilities, but improved technology makes them suitable for a wider variety of applications. Synthetic material often is easier to clean and requires less maintenance than wood. Options include floor tiles that snap together and poured urethane products.

Factors like climate and wear-and-tear expectancy need to be considered when choosing flooring.

Bleacher manufacturers "are reacting to changes in flooring," Warner said. Newer retractable bleachers offer optimal traction on the different types of flooring and finishes as opposed to just wood.

The biggest changes in bleacher design are driven by liability, consumer safety and code-compliance issues. But patron comfort and aesthetic appeal are increasingly important as well. "Bleachers as a general rule are this big chunk of ugly things that move in and out," Warner said. However, "Manufacturers now offer plastic modular ones that look better, resist vandalism, and are easier to clean and maintain."

Bleachers can be designed in such a way that a school's mascot or initials appear when they are retracted, so the bank of bleachers "kind of turns into signage instead of a boring slab of gray or pine," Warner said.

Indoor sports equipment has not evolved much in the past few years, except new construction projects now have the option of incorporating telescoping volleyball poles that retract into the floor or poles that fold down from the ceiling.

Sports facilities are being designed with flexibility and multipurpose use in mind. As such, "Scoreboards that are portable and have wireless controllers are more and more common," said Reed Voorhees, vice president, Cannon Design.