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What Types of Flooring Are Used in a Sports Centre?

Introduction

A sports centre is a multi-purpose facility. By nature, they offer a broad range of activities while serving as the beating heart of a community. On top of their primary sporting function, they play vital roles as community centres, social hubs and champions of education. A sports centre must provide excellent facilities while enduring constant heavy use. The OG of multi-function spaces, what types of flooring are used in a sports centre?

Picture a typical sports hall, the core space of a sports centre. What’s the first thing that springs to mind? That classic sprung wooden floor layered with the coloured boundary markings of several sports. It’s durable and easy to maintain: perfect for indoor sports. It is, however, just one of many different flooring materials used in a sports centre. From parquet to vinyl to artificial turf, and even ice!

Basketball, netball, volleyball, badminton, tennis, football, padel, squash, and gymnastics; sports centres demand versatile surface types for their activities. And that’s excluding the wet side! They must stand the test of time, enduring the wear and tear of relentless multi-function use. Let’s dive into what types of flooring are used in a sports centre, and why. 



Sports Hall

The sports hall is the core space of any sports centre. It functions as a multi-sport arena which can be divided using giant net curtains to enable different sports to be played simultaneously. In their multi-function capacity, they are used as event spaces for fairs, conferences, exams, and lectures. Therefore, as a surface, it needs to be hardy and practical in equal measure to withstand rigorous use. 

There are three common surface materials for sports hall flooring, each providing clear benefits and drawbacks. 



1. Hardwood

Sprung wooden flooring

This traditional choice is created by installing metal springs or a woven wood subfloor, resulting in a more forgiving surface. A layer of plywood under the hardwood surface gives a solid feel, while the layers create a shock-absorbent sports surface. Maple, oak and beech timber offer long-lasting durability, each having its characteristics, hue, and finish. 

This indoor sports flooring offers unrivalled durability and can last for decades. A new coat of lacquer every ten years will keep it looking great, with regular cleaning its only maintenance requirement. The downside: once it has ‘dead zones’ or becomes extremely creaky, the recommended solution is to replace the entire floor. Replacing individual planks or springs risks damaging their integrity, reducing their capacity for protection and safety.

Parquet wooden flooring

Another easily recognisable sports hall surface, this intricate-looking flooring provides outstanding durability and capacity for multi-function use. The layout pattern – herringbone, double herringbone, chevron, or mosaic squares – ensures longevity by reducing the movement of individual timber pieces. Although widely used until the 1970s, it can be unforgiving to participants and offers inadequate protection by modern standards.

Traditional parquet flooring is typical in older sports centres. This is due partly to its legendary durability, but more so because it’s simply fallen out of favour. Modern technology and cheaper materials have seen sprung flooring, PU, and vinyl take their place as the go-to choices.

2. Polyurethane (PU)

It is the modern-day equivalent of parquet for its everlasting durability and multi-sport capacity. ‘PU’ is the best and most widely used synthetic material for new sports hall flooring. It offers superior slip resistance, grip, and shock absorption while being ideal for a wide variety of indoor sports. It is customisable by colour and boundary markings, and varying density grades give different levels of elasticity.

Polyurethane can withstand rigorous use and will last for decades beyond the lifespan of a traditional wooden floor. It has a clean, seamless finish and is far cheaper than timber should the need to resurface arise. It’s easy to maintain with regular cleaning, which adds to its popularity when facility maintenance costs are a concern.

3. Vinyl

Seen as the cheaper alternative to PU, vinyl flooring has the greatest multi-sport capacity for indoor sports. Even though it needs replacing about every ten years, it offers broad usage capacity and the best customisation options. A safety feature of vinyl flooring, like PU, is that there are various grades of density. It is highly durable and forgiving on the athlete. Maintenance is simple, as it only requires regular cleaning. 


Squash Courts

Squash courts remain a stalwart of the sports centre. The fast-paced sport has proven to be the most high-energy of racquet sports. Therefore, durable and reliable flooring is paramount for this unique indoor sport. Squash Courts require a sport-specific version of sprung wooden flooring. Light in colour, maple and beech timber provides ‘spring’ to the surface while reducing leg strain. 

Planks lie lengthways down upon a sub-frame of semi-sprung battens. Unlike sports halls, squash courts are not sealed with lacquer or varnish because squash, by nature, is a sweaty sport. Sweat deposits would increase the greasiness of the court, making slipping and injury more likely. Instead, an engineer will sand the surface to a specific grade down the length of the planks, to give it a good level of traction for players. 

Squash courts only require basic cleaning with a dust-attracting, dry V-mop. They are easy to maintain, with repairs to individual sections possible without having to replace the entire court floor. 


Outdoor Spaces

Sports centres often provide a range of outdoor activities in both covered and uncovered facilities. Artificial turf, track and asphalt are three common surfaces for sports like padel, 5-a-side football, tennis, netball, basketball, hockey and athletics.

1. Artificial Turf

Artificial turf mimics the key properties of grass, without the probability of dirt and mud. It offers a superior grip, with bounce and shock absorption customisable by the type used. Relatively new sports like padel are booming in popularity with artificial turf being the preferred surface. Field hockey, football and tennis are all suited to this outdoor sports surface, an all-season solution that drains quickly and is easy to maintain. 

2. Track

There are two main categories of synthetic track surfaces: porous and non-porous.

Porous

With efficient drainage by design, it is more widely used in community and school settings. Its downside is durability. It requires an astute maintenance programme and, unless tended to, will need regular repairs. It is, however, a more economical choice for non-elite settings. Maintenance includes yearly inspection for cracks, professional cleaning every 3 years, remarking every 7 years and a surface re-spray every 7 – 10 years, depending on use.

Non-porous

Intended for high use and elite purposes, this harder surface provides a better track environment for professional athletes. Costly in relation to the porous alternative, it is more durable and requires a less hands-on maintenance regime. Although able to withstand over 150,000 hours of athlete use per year, it is susceptible to overuse. Surface delamination and pooling can lead it to become porous and develop moss and mould. 

Tracks aren’t the most common sports centre fixture in built-up urban areas, with preference given to a broader choice of sports facilities. Hockey, 5-a-side football, tennis, and padel cages make for a more diverse use of space, providing a wider variety of activities than a running track.

3. Asphalt

The ultimate all-weather solution, asphalt is an agile surface material that can be used as a base layer for other outdoor sports surfaces (like turf and track), and as a playing surface. It is often painted with acrylic ground coating for multi-sport game area (MUGA) construction and racquet sports courts, providing custom capabilities and all-weather resistance. It can be graded to provide a smooth or coarse surface depending on preference. 

Asphalt is relatively cheap and widely available, while also being easy to maintain and repair. It is straightforward to repurpose without having to resurface.


Fitness Suite

It would be unusual to find a sports centre without a gym or a group exercise studio. It makes sense that a place with an emphasis on exercise and activity should offer somewhere for those who aren’t ‘into sports’ to maintain their physical health. The types of flooring found in gyms and group exercise studios have their specific purposes with similarities to the other facilities mentioned in this article. 

1. Gym

The purpose of gym flooring is to provide safety and protection for gym users and equipment. Widely used rubber flooring serves a dual purpose as a shock-absorbing and soundproofing surface. It limits the impact of weights dropping on the floor while providing a more forgiving surface for the joints of the gym user during a vigorous workout. Thicker flooring equals more protection for both the user and the equipment. 

2. Group Exercise Studio

Another multi-function space, group exercise studios need to accommodate a wide range of classes and serve as a space for meetings and events. From yoga to martial arts to dance to circuit training, the flooring needs to withstand heavy foot traffic while providing good grip, stability, and impact protection. Rubber, vinyl, and linoleum are common, while sprung wooden flooring is a feature in group exercise studios of older sports centres.


Summary

As we have seen, a sports centre will offer a multitude of activities and, as such, will have several different spaces. Housing various types of indoor sports flooring and outdoor sports flooring, they rely on these surfaces to withstand the wear and tear of multi-function use while being economical and straightforward to maintain. 

If you have any questions about what you’ve read and are interested in finding out more, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

At GYM Constructor, we work with manufacturers and suppliers to fulfil the needs of our customers. We don’t supply equipment and services ourselves. Instead, we strive to find the best solution for your facility by connecting you with our trusted equipment and service partners. If you’d like information about pricing or the service we provide, please fill in the short form at the bottom of the page, and we’ll get back to you.

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Disclaimer: The opinions and positions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and collaborators and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the professional fitness community.

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