Indoor surfaces: The ultimate four-season athlete
Indoor sports surfaces are the ultimate multi-taskers, hosting everything from high-level competitions to community meetings to indoor recess to assemblies and graduations.
With the rise in expectations has come an enlargement of the market, with various types of flooring, ready to meet the needs of each program.The question, of course, is this: What are your needs? While it’s easy to head into a meeting with the idea of putting down the best possible flooring, it’s imperative to be able to answer the questions that will allow you to specify what surface actually works best in your given situation.
Indoor surface professionals say it is essential to have all questions answered, particularly in light of a market that can fluctuate.
“Like everything else, costs keep going up and unfortunately, budgets are not keeping up,” says Kira Simons of Titan Sport Systems. “Rental groups and community programming are hard on floors.”
Here is a framework of questions all users (coaches, athletic directors, and other members of the school administration) should come together to discuss:
- What sports will the facility host, and at what level?
- Will there be permanently installed bleachers, or will bleachers fold away or be rolled away when not in use?
- Will sports run year-round, or just during the school year?
- Will the gym host non-sports events, like proms, dances, meetings, assemblies, or graduations, in which chairs and tables might be placed on the surface? If so, can the school invest in mats or coverings that can be put down to protect the surface?
- Will all users wear shoes with non-marking soles, or will there be a variety of footwear on the surface?
- What are your maintenance capabilities?
- What is your budget for the floor?
These may not be the only questions you need to ask, but they are a good starting point. Be aware that there are multiple options on the market. The short-but-sweet version is as follows:
- Hardwood (Floating, Fixed/Anchored, and Portable) — Northern hard maple, which has been used in sports flooring applications since the 19th century, is the dominant species used for hardwood sports flooring in North America.
“Wood is always the popular choice for indoor facilities that will be used for court sports such as basketball, volleyball, badminton, or the fast-growing sport of pickleball,” says Joe Covington of Covington Flooring Company in Birmingham, Alabama. “It is smooth and shock-absorbing and when properly maintained, provides the delicate balance of slide vs. traction required for these activities.”
- Vulcanized Rubber — Vulcanized rubber is rubber that has been modified to enhance its mechanical strength. Vulcanized rubber is used in many applications, including tires, shoe soles, rubber balls, hoses and, of course, flooring.
- Padded Polyurethane — Polyurethanes, which can be formulated to provide elasticity with a high degree of toughness, have been used in seamless sports flooring designs for decades.
- Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) — PVC flooring is commonly manufactured with a solid color or imprinted wood-like surface. For sports applications, a resilient foam backing is incorporated into its design.
- Modular Polypropylene (PP) — Polypropylene is relatively economical, resistant to fatigue, and unusually resistant to chemical solvents. In the athletic environment, polypropylene is available as hard plastic tiles that snap together. This is a popular surface for uses such as in convention centers that will host a large tournament.
- Synthetic Turf — While you won’t see it in many multi-purpose gyms, synthetic turf has gained ground as a surface of choice in specific installations.
“Artificial turf is a low-maintenance and durable option for some indoor facilities,” says Covington. “It is also slip-resistant and provides good traction for agility and speed training and is often used for indoor softball and baseball batting cages.”
Simons is seeing a preference among users for synthetic flooring, engineered to have the look of a wood surfaces. “This is a popular choice, especially when paired with a sprung subfloor, as the customer is getting the best of both worlds and their space looks like a traditional gym floor,” she said.