Feature Article - March 2018
Find a printable version here

Surface Area

Options Abound for Indoor Sports Flooring & Fitness Surfaces

By Deborah L. Vence

Choosing the right indoor sports flooring and fitness surface for your facility requires knowing exactly what types of activities will be taking place.

"When it comes to sports and fitness surfacing, it's no longer one-type-fits-all. The surface should be specified based upon the activity being performed upon it, not just the basic sports flooring classification," said Bo Barber, vice president of marketing and business development for a Lancaster, Pa.-based company that specializes in recycled rubber flooring products.

In a fitness area, Barber said, in which there are cardio machines and light dumbbells, the surfacing will need to be very different from the surface in an area where heavy weights are being dropped. "While the fitness surface needs to be ergonomic and shock-absorbing," he said, "the demands of a traditional weight room require the floor to also be durable and to provide firm footing. By selecting the right surfacing for the right application, you are allowing the person using it to perform better and longer."

For example, Barber's company installed its flooring product at Spooky Nook Sports in Manheim, Pa., considered the largest indoor sports complex in North America. "The 700,000-square-foot facility serves as a fitness space for locals and a training center for student, collegiate and professional athletes." Having the right surfacing was critical and Barber's company's flooring was specified throughout most of the facility.

Spooky Nook converted six tennis courts into a fitness and training area for its members in December 2015. The space features a performance track, turf field, turf hill, basketball court, pickleball courts, weightlifting area, sled lane and Ninja Warrior course. Spooky Nook's functional training area features seamless surfaces with smooth transitions between spaces. Another feature is the performance track, which now is one of the most used pieces of equipment. In addition, Spooky Nook's inlaid lifting platforms are cutting-edge, featuring custom graphics on a durable, low-maintenance floor designed to withstand extreme wear and tear.

The fact is that many options exist for indoor sports flooring, with the most popular being modular athletic flooring, wood and rolled sheet goods, according to Jorgen Moller, CEO of a Salt Lake City-based company that engineers, manufactures and provides outdoor multi-courts, basketball courts and modular sport surfaces. "While wood flooring is noted as top-of-the-line, it does come with hefty installation, maintenance and [the need for] temperature-controlled facilities, not to mention the need to strip and restore annually," Moller said. "Modular flooring is a great, more economical option. Modular surfaces are durable, require very little maintenance, and do not require costly humidity/HVAC control systems.

"Technology in modular athletic flooring has also come a long way; most modular floors offer the look and feel of a real wood floor. Synthetic surfaces are also a less expensive alternative to wood, but do not typically offer the same durability as a wood or modular floor," Moller said.

Similarly, Susan Proud, vice president of sports installations for a Lancaster County, Pa.-based company that manufactures and installs sports surfaces, suggested that there are a variety of different floor types that can be used for sports flooring, with the most common type for indoor sport courts being pad and pour, which has a rubber sublayer, topped with a liquid coat urethane. "This combination of material makes this flooring seamless, resilient and safer for the user," Proud said.

Product advances have helped to make fitness flooring become more efficient and offer more protection for sub-floors. Proud noted that the most popular type of fitness flooring stems from a flooring manufacturer that invented the idea of compressed recycled rubber flooring. One of the company's product lines provides fitness flooring that is tailored to a specific exercise need. It can be used to create "inlaid platforms."

"The traditional weight room platform is about 2 to 3 inches above the regular fitness flooring," she said. "Eliminating the raised platform can give any weight room the ability to utilize more space and create a safer and cleaner environment for the athletes," she said. "With inlaid platforms athletes no longer have to worry about tripping or twisting an ankle when moving on and off the platform. When the workout is finished, the cleaning is simple. Since the surface is completely flat, it leaves no place for harmful bacteria to reside."

Steve Hayes, Midwest/West Coast regional sales manager for a Peshtigo, Wis.-based hardwood flooring manufacturer, noted a list of different flooring options that includes:

  • Virgin rubber sheet goods: "Excellent playing characteristics. Good coefficient of friction, shock absorption and resiliency, and very durable for multi-purpose activities."
  • Recycled rubber sheet goods, which are a cost-effective alternative to virgin rubber sheet goods.
  • Vinyl sheet goods: Can be manufactured to look like wood. Good playing characteristics. Typically a little less expensive than virgin rubber sheet goods.
  • Poured-in-place polyurethane: Good playing characteristics. The floor can be re-coated after years of use and will look brand new again.
  • Wood: Durable and, in most cases, has good playing characteristics (depending on the type of subfloor). Handles bleacher loads very well.