Indoor and Outdoor Sports Surfaces

A number of sports can be played both indoors and outdoors while others are more suited to one environment over another. To match the versatility of the environments these sports are played in, courts also must be adapted depending on their location while maintaining as similar a performance level as possible. A big part of this is the materials used for indoor and outdoor sports surfaces.

Indoor Sports Surfaces

Gymnasiums have to cater to a wide array of sports and are often used as multi-purpose activity areas. Indoor sports surfaces have to be durable enough to keep up with the athletes no matter what they are doing. Basketball, badminton, volleyball, and handball all may share the same court, which could be used multiple times a day for hours at a time. Regardless of whatever is played in a court, as a facilities manager, you want to ensure that you are buying a product that will last. If the space you are working with is already built, assess how the space is used and whether the equipment already in place (bleachers, stages, etc.) will bear any limitations on reflooring or recoating. For structures still in construction, there is more flexibility for choosing the appropriate coating.

Outdoor Sports Surfaces

An even greater diversity of sports are played outdoors, including field hockey, racing/running, baseball, football, archery, horseback riding, kayaking, rock climbing, and a countless number of other activities. Outdoor sports surfaces are just as diverse as the activities played on them. While some sports are set directly within the elements, as in hiking up mountains, wind surfing on the sea, skiing cross-country over the snow, and so on, other sports need a special court or flooring system to play on.

All outdoor surfaces are designed to either perform in or withstand all types of weather. Even if you don’t want to walk out into the snow for a brisk game of tennis, your court will be there ready to go when the weather clears up in spring. Surfaces also must provide both traction and shock absorbency so that players can perform well.

There are three main types of outdoor recreational surfaces: tracks, turf, and courts. Artificial tracks and the infill for synthetic turf often contain recycled materials, such as small cubes from rubber shoe soles or car tires. Reusing these materials helps to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills. This material also provides good traction and cushioning for athletes as well as adequate drainage in the event of rain. The look and feel of the turf is designed to resemble and behave like natural grass without the hassle of watering, mowing, fertilizing, and replanting. Outdoor courts for basketball and tennis are made of a acrylic, which provides a finer surface than that of tracks, but still provides reliable traction as well as a firm surface so that the balls have a better bounce that won’t interfere with game play.

Football Playing Surfaces

There are primarily two types of football playing surfaces: natural grass and artificial turf. Artificial turf was first installed in the Houston Astrodome, the first indoor stadium to be used for both football and baseball. Because the arena was domed, there was no sunlight to allow natural grass to grow, so to realize the dream of the complex, an alternative had to be created. Synthetic turf caught on as its other advantages were gradually discovered, particularly in regard to how little maintenance it required relative to natural grass fields. Over time, synthetic turf has been developed and improved to further replicate the look, feel, and behavior of true grass. Eventually, even outdoor stadiums were equipped with synthetic turf, providing athletes with practice fields for all seasons that would withstand all types of weather.

Challenges of Natural Turf

The largest issues of a natural turf field all involve maintenance. Natural fields require plenty of effort and care to stay looking healthy and keep a thick mat for game and event days. Grass is the largest (and most highly irrigated) crop in the United States. Even a household lawn will consume hundreds of gallons of water each day. For maintaining a professional field, the expenses add up even more quickly. Natural fields also need attentive mowing, fertilizing, and replanting. Cleats ripping up chunks of the field as well as heavy wear from tackles, running, and sliding create unsightly patches that take away from the aesthetics of a field if new growth cannot spring up in time for games. For large events such as graduations, large numbers of people standing, walking, and sitting on the field as well as event staging equipment like platforms and chairs can also cause extensive damage to the appearance and integrity of a natural field.

Another type of problem with natural grass is that not everyone can enjoy it equally. People with allergies may suffer intensely from the growth, especially during major growing seasons. For this reason, it may be especially wise for schools, parks, and recreational clubs to install a synthetic turf field. This way more people will be able to participate in field sports and enjoy outdoor activities.

Artificial Turf Solutions

Synthetic turf neatly works around these problems. While artificial turf fields still require periodic maintenance, such as brushing, aerating, and raking (to prevent compaction of the infill and remove debris from the surface of the field), they do not bear the same environmental consequences or require the same level of care. This makes them excellent options for turf installation.

Infographic: Sorry I’ve Got to Run

Running as a sport and the facilities that we compete on have come a long way over the years, from the open fields of the Greeks to the high-tech sports arenas of modern-day stadiums. As a producer of running track surfaces, we wanted to highlight some interesting facts about the sport and its history. Hopefully our infographic will help inspire you to work the track, stay in shape, and maybe even set some records of your own. Happy running!

Infographic: Sorry I've Got to Run Thumbnail

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Flooring for Indoor and Outdoor Basketball Courts

Indoor and outdoor basketball courts have an entirely separate field of concerns regarding flooring. Each type of court has its own purpose and must be made with flooring material suited to its own usage requirements. Constructing courts with the proper materials will not only extend the life of the court, but will also help it to retain its original appearance for longer without as much maintenance.

Outdoor Basketball Court Flooring

In the outdoors, environmental conditions compete with players’ needs. The main intention of outdoor courts is recreational rather than professional. On older courts, concrete or asphalt makes up the flooring because they are durable, all-weather materials. After playing on these surfaces for prolonged periods of time, however, they may take a toll on a player’s body, causing pain in a player’s ankles, knees, hip joints, or even lower back. These rigid surfaces make for a high impact court, and your bones and joints are absorbing all the shock. Updated courts generally turn to more forgiving basketball court flooring materials, such as acrylic surfacing. Both athletes and trainers can appreciate the superior traction, even in less than ideal weather. The bounce-back or shock absorption from the floor also augments both athletic performance and safety of the facilities.

Indoor Basketball Court Materials

For team practices and actual competitions, most groups favor indoor courts rather than outdoor. Indoor courts offer a controlled environment, allowing designers to focus on appearance and conditions rather than weather resistance. Organizations will invest significantly in their gyms because the condition of the gym represents the overall health and prosperity of the team. A gorgeous, high-ceilinged, glossy-floored basketball court will both impress and intimidate visiting teams while invigorating home-team fans and athletes. It makes sense that gym and stadium managers want to protect their investments.

One of the most important ways of maintaining an indoor court is through a high-performance floor coating. These coatings and finishes should be both aesthetically pleasing as well as functional. Most are clear and have a high sheen to show the wood paneling beneath as well as give them an attractive shine. They should also provide a measure of shock absorption to reduce the risk of long-term joint injury as well as enhance speed and the bounce of the ball. Other features typically include waterproofing, in case of drink spills, roof leaks, or tracking in water from outside. This makes clean-up of liquids and trash relatively easy so your floor will stay beautiful longer.

Types of Tennis Courts

Tennis has a long history and is now played on a variety of surface materials: clay, grass, acrylic hard courts, synthetic hard courts, and carpet. Each type of material provides its own advantages and offers unique challenges to players. Often certain playing styles will work better on some types and less effectively on others.

Clay

Clay courts are made of compressed shale, stone, or brick. While they are relatively easy and cheap to install, long-term maintenance can be quite expensive, particularly when compared to the costs of artificial tennis court surfaces. The water balance within the clay must be carefully monitored and adjusted, and the court must be rolled periodically to preserve its flatness.

In terms of play, clay courts are traditionally used in the French Open. These courts characteristically have a slower game and give balls a higher bounce. They tend to favor baseline players, as well. These courts are most popular in Europe and Latin America.

Grass

Tennis courts with grass surfaces are not as common today as they have been in the past due to the high maintenance costs of constant watering and mowing. They are also more impacted by weather conditions than clay or hard court surfaces are. Dirt is hard-packed and the grass must be trimmed very short. Grass is the fastest type of court because of its low bounce capacity. Players must get to the ball much more quickly than with clay or hard court. This means that players with stronger serve-and-volley skills will generally perform better. The grass court is the signature of Wimbledon.

Hard Courts

Hard courts can range from faster to slower speeds depending on the quantity and size of sand mixed into the paint coating. Hard courts tend to equalize the playing field in terms of athletic style. An acrylic hard court is used in the US Open and a synthetic for the Australian Open. While acrylic courts are more rigid and create a faster game, they can also be rough on the human body. To combat this, artificial tennis court surfaces were created to allow for similar usability and low maintenance, but also allow for greater shock absorption for players. These courts have been installed everywhere from the White House and the Sony Ericsson Open to high schools and tennis clubs around the world.

Carpet

Carpet courts are removable tennis court surfaces. These can be made from any of several materials, from artificial turf to hard rubber. In general, carpeted courts make for a fast game.

Advantages of Artificial Turf Athletic Fields

For decades artificial turf has been replacing natural turf in athletic fields across the world in everywhere from Olympic stadiums and professional league arenas to grade school sports fields. From its outset, artificial turf athletic fields have offered a number of benefits and advantages that natural turf fields can’t compete with.

All-weather Utility

Natural turf fields will turn to mud in a moderate to heavy rain. If you play on a natural field while it’s raining, you can say goodbye to the grass and look forward to a good deal of replanting later on. For an artificial turf field, however, rain or shine, players will leave a perfect field behind every time. The all-weather properties of these fields make them particularly ideal for wetter areas or playing during rainy times of the year.

Versatility and Preparation

Artificial turf athletic fields are versatile and can endure heavy use. After events, natural turf will need a period of recovery before another game can be played on it. If you are organizing several consecutive sporting events to take place on the field, this recovery time can limit or interfere with your arrangements. However, while natural turf fields are able to withstand about 100 event hours of use, artificial turf fields can endure well over 500 event hours. For a multi-purpose field with frequent events and games, artificial turf is often the best solution. It requires 0 recovery time and is ready to go as soon as your team is.

No Growing Required

After installation, artificial turf is ready for use. Preparation for natural turf takes much longer and requires significant attention and care as the seasons change. As time passes, certain areas will wear down more than others, leaving the look of the field patchy and inconsistent. Every few weeks it must be mown and the grass trimmings collected. To keep away bugs that can damage the field, it is often necessary to use pesticides, which can spread into surrounding areas and leach into nearby water sources. Fertilizer can have similarly harmful effects on nearby areas in addition to consuming a considerable amount of time. The frequent watering can drive water expenditures through the roof. With every spring, you can also look forward to the replanting you will have to perform to thicken the turf again to meeting playing and aesthetic standards. None of these problems associated with growing and maintaining grass are present in an artificial turf field.

Types of Tracks

Whether you run competitively or recreationally, the type of surface you run on can impact your speed, your technique, and even your physical health. While a comfortable surface can improve your running experience, a hard surface can wear down your body over time, particularly your joints. You may even feel it as you practice. That said, no two runners are alike and each may prefer a different surface. Each has its own advantages.

Synthetic

A synthetic track surface is durable, weather-resistant, and reliable. The spongy texture of synthetic athletic surfaces provides good shock absorption and a stable tread. Because synthetic tracks are an independent system from their environments, they will not erode over time and can be maintained with minimal effort. This translates into even surfaces without surprises. Because of the material and construction, athletes can use the track even during drizzly weather without having to worry about getting caught in the mud. Synthetic tracks are also well-suited for indoor or stadium fields.

Grass and Turf

Running through fields of grass is easy on your joints because the turf provides a nice cushion and the dirt beneath is kept from being too tightly packed by the roots of the grass. You may even be able to run barefoot if the field is well-maintained. However, on rainy days, the grass can be dangerously slippery or suck your shoes into mud. It is also hard to find a good stretch of grass without dips or holes, which can be a hazard if you stumble into one accidentally.

Dirt

Dirt tracks are a mixed bag. In ideal conditions, they should provide decent shock absorption (although not as much as turf) for an easy run. Most traditional cross-country tracks will be dirt and offer scenic trails. On hot days, though, the dirt can dry out and become as hard as asphalt from dense packing. A loose surface layer may also create a slippery tread for runners. As with other natural surfaces, dirt tracks may be pitted with dips and potholes from animal activity and the forces of erosion. If a dirt track isn’t routinely maintained, you may see it return to nature in a short amount of time.

Asphalt

Asphalt is harsher on your joints than (generally) dirt and turf surfaces because it offers a harder surface, but this property also allows you to break out with faster run times. Another down side, though, is that on sunny or hot days, the asphalt will seem to radiate the ambient heat onto you as you run. If you run on this surface, which some city dwellers are limited to, make sure that you are hydrated and have well-cushioned and supportive running shoes.

Note: Concrete surfaces are significantly harder than asphalt ones and are not suited for intense training.