Vital to Be Versatile

Increased demand leads to need for multipurpose sports flooring

By Robin Traum

If you're part of an athletics, physical education, fitness or recreation department, there's a good chance you are affiliated with a facility being constructed or renovated during the course of this year. According to the 2005 Outlook for U.S. Construction Activity, presented by McGraw-Hill Construction, there will be an increase in educational building and continued building of other institutional facilities in 2005.

Educational institutions from elementary schools through colleges and universities will benefit from a projected 3-percent increase in construction growth. According to the Construction Outlook, 2005 will bring significant renovation of educational institutions. Rising student enrollment necessitates much of the construction. The actual educational building is enabled by improved fiscal health of some states and voter-approved bond issues. Other institutional structures like religious facilities, public buildings, and amusement and rec buildings, which can include parks and rec centers, may not see equivalent growth but will count new square footage in the millions.

At least one similarity appears within this broad range of facilities: About 70 percent are expected to have multipurpose space. It's space that is not dedicated to a single use because it can't be—the demand for it is too great. While it may be called the school gym, community center or fellowship hall, in reality it has many uses, applications and patrons. Which means this versatile space needs an appropriate multiuse floor.

So it's time to be honest. As the administrator, athletic director or program coordinator at your facility, you've been designated to help with the selection of the new floor. You jump at the chance to get the sports surface you've always dreamed of having for your players or students. But it is not going to be that easy. Realize there is something about flooring we all take for granted that really demonstrates its importance: The floor is the most heavily used part of any building. Think about that for a while and then begin considering who else and what other programs will use the floor initially and in the future.

Now, you have acknowledged the floor in your facility will not be used 100 percent of the time for sports but for a multitude of functions from concerts and tournaments to meetings and banquets. The attendees also will differ greatly from young to old with varying movements from running and jumping to walking and standing.

Your challenge is to find out what is critical for their needs and address them as completely as possible in the selection of flooring. You want to leverage the use of the space efficiently so it can host all of the interested groups appropriately. You have to figure out how to select the right floor and focusing on a multipurpose sports floor is the best way to start in the right category. A multipurpose sports floor can give you versatility, durability, performance, safety and comfort.

Think sports and safety

You have established you need a floor for sports. Think about which sports will be played most often and what they require. Performance is essential. Your teams want to know the ball will actually bounce as high or where they expect it to be. You want to be sure that the floor will wear evenly and does not have dead spots and that the surface feel will not change over time.

Another critical characteristic for the surface is the proper coefficient of friction. That will minimize slipping and sliding and allow for controlled foot movements especially if there's going to be stop-and-go running.

One sport-flooring expert considers the most important attribute of a sports multipurpose floor its ability to prevent injuries. That's a criterion that can be applied across the board for any participant whether at a sporting event, book fair or graduation. Think about the safety of the floors under consideration. Many leg and foot injuries are the result of the surface the person falls on. A forgiving surface that provides shock absorption is likely to lessen the number of injuries. It also helps if the surface of the floor is specially treated to reduce the incidence of friction burns.

Remember durability, comfort and maintenance

Don't forget about comfort and those people who may be standing on the floor for long periods of time, whether singing in a chorus, coaching a team, giving a speech or explaining a science project. Think about the objects that might be placed on the floor such as benches, tables, pianos, chairs or stage scenery. The floor should be versatile, durable and resist indentation.

Durability is important. Not everyone will be wearing athletic shoes. Can people with other types of footwear walk across the surfaces you are considering without leaving marks or requiring a floor cover?

It's extremely important to understand the varying maintenance needs. It pays off with a more attractive, longer-lasting and safer surface. A clean floor can reduce the possibility of slipping. Floors create impressions by their appearance and performance. If your facility cannot fund the maintenance properly, that will impact the life span of the floor.

The incorrect choice of cleaning methods can destroy a floor before the end of its expected life span—so can skipping needed maintenance. Make sure not only you but also the staff understands what is required to keep the floor in optimal condition. Ask about the daily, biweekly, and if necessary, annual and major maintenance requirements. Find out how long the processes take and whether you will need to schedule programs for another location for extended periods of time. After finding out the installation costs, prepare a life cycle analysis to help you and colleagues understand what the different floors under evaluation will cost over a period of years in terms of money and time.

Choosing the right multipurpose sports floor for a facility requires an investment of time and consideration of different opinions. By going through the process thoroughly, when the installation is complete you will have an outstanding surface for multiple uses that provides safety and comfort and can be maintained easily.

Robin Traum is a public-relations consultant for Taraflex Sports Flooring by Gerflor. For more information, visit at

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