Supplement Feature - September 2014
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The Big Bounce

Innovations in Sports Flooring Abound

By Rick Dandes

For gymnasiums, sports courts, fitness centers and more, a sometimes-overlooked but critical component affecting the safety and performance is the playing surface. Having the right sports flooring improves traction, reduces stress on joints and muscles, and reduces the occurrence of sports-related injuries.

If you're looking to buy the best sports flooring for your arena or club, "It's all about finding the right application at the right price, and balancing that with need for performance and safety," said Dan Wollman, director of commercial sales for a sports flooring manufacturer based in Salt Lake City, Utah. "There are so many options out there," he added. And while both maple flooring and synthetic surfaces have been around for decades, manufacturers continue to evolve their products, to improve performance and respond to environmental concerns.

Do not think that there is only one way to go because that is how it has been done for the past 50 years. The products available are constantly changing. For example, a new generation of portable floor systems is faster to assemble and take apart. New technologies allow for portable floors to stay down permanently. New wood constructs can be half the weight of traditional materials. Some new finishes can last up to three years. Open yourself to new possibilities, and it can save you maintenance time and money from start to finish.

"There is a whole list of factors I take into account when trying to decide what kind of sports flooring to buy," explained David Proffitt, senior architect at the University of Louisville. Proffitt initially sits down with the staff at one of the on-campus facilities and asks them what kind of sports flooring they need and want. Do they just want something to play on, or do they want something really superb and top-notch? What level of use are they going to have?

Once you know that, he said, determine what type of floor surface (wood or synthetic) best meets the needs of what will occur on the floor. The type of sport that the area is used for is often a determining factor. For example, track and field is better held on a synthetic floor, or perhaps even a combination floor that features both wood and synthetic could be considered. If basketball is going to be the main use of the floor, a wood floor might be the best selection. If events such as banquets, meetings or other non-athletic events are going to be the main use, a synthetic floor might be best.

Each surface option on the market today has myriad positive and negative characteristics that can be presented subjectively by the manufacturer. Annual maintenance, staff experience, typical equipment needed—all should be considered into the equation before you make a decision.

What is also very important to review, Proffitt continued, is not only what the floor will be used for and the cost of the floor you are thinking about buying, but also the history of the product, where it has been installed and the time it lasts. "Certainly cost is a major factor for many facilities," he said. But there is more to making a decision than that.

Still other factors have to do with the people installing the floor. "I'll want to know, for example, the financial strength and resume of the manufacturer, their history of customer service and the value that they provide to the procurement process." Find out what their record is when you ask for a call back. How do they perform? If you have an issue, will they come back quickly and resolve the problem, regardless of whether the problem was yours or theirs, and fix it in a timely manner?