Supplement Feature - September 2011
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Take It Inside

Cost, Maintenance, Performance Are Top Issues in Sports, Fitness Flooring

By Deborah L. Vence

Basketball courts, multi-activity courts and fitness floors all have one thing in common: They're indoors. And, the type of indoor surfaces that recreation and sports facilities choose is dependent upon what that flooring is being used for and how often it's used.

"There are so many things to consider," when deciding on a sports flooring surface, said Reed Voorhees, AIA, LEED AP, vice president at Cannon Design, based in St. Louis. "Many of those things get overlooked. There are so many different spaces. At any sports facility and recreation center, there are so many unique spaces and so many unique systems for certain uses."

For instance, basketball and volleyball courts usually use hardwood flooring, even though synthetic options are available; multi-activity courts typically use synthetic flooring; and fitness rooms, such as cardio and aerobic studios, generally use wood floor systems.

In any case, facility managers need to take some factors into consideration when choosing indoor flooring.

What to Consider

Two factors to keep in mind when deciding on flooring are what types of sports are going to be played on it and what type of equipment will be used.

"Wood floors are good for basketball. Soccer can be played on it as far as Futsal soccer, which is played with a weighted ball so it doesn't bounce all over the place," said Mark Keane, AIA, LEED AP, project designer with Hastings & Chivetta Architects Inc., based in St. Louis. "If basketball is not the primary sport and you want a multipurpose [floor], changing from wood to synthetic works well for indoor soccer. And then you have to separate synthetics if you are going to go into rollerblading, something along those lines—even a harder synthetic surface so it doesn't get cut up by the rollerblades. So, the type of sports and equipment that are going to be used are the big items there."

For fitness rooms, the biggest factor is whether or not it's a free weight area.

"A free weight area will need a surface that can withstand the dropping of the weights," Keane said. "With cardio [rooms] and such, you can go to the sports flooring, but you can even go down to carpet. Again, that's more of a cost issue."

Likewise, Frank Parisi, AIA, LEED AP, at Carol Stream, Ill.-based Williams Architects, said that you have to take into account the type of programming when selecting indoor flooring.

"[You have to consider] the type of program you are having. For fitness [rooms], [you can have] any rubber flooring. In a free weight area, if you are dropping weights, it tends to soften the sound or deaden the sound. In a dance studio, you would look at the type of program you are doing. [It might be] recommended to use a sprung wood floor, a sprung maple floor, just because with dance, you need shock absorption. For the ankles, knees, hips, a sprung wood floor works the best," Parisi said.