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Sports flooring: Flooring innovations

Tom Walker takes a look at the latest projects and Innovation in sports flooring from around the world

by Tom Walker, Leisure Media | Published in Sports Management Nov Dec 2017 issue 134
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Futuristic flooring

ASB
Glass playing surface for elite sports

What will indoor sports surfaces look like in 20 years’ time? Will there always be space for wooden flooring? Or are there innovative new playing surfaces around the corner that will transform the sports sector for the better?

One of the disruptors that could have a major effect are glass-based products that allow digital signage. An innovator in this space is Germany-based ASB.

The company started off as a specialist in squash courts, but has since developed a futuristic product called ASB GlassFloor. Designed to be highly versatile, the surface of the floor has two treated glass plates that are held together by a polyvinyl butyral (PVB) safety layer.

Due to its transparency, LED lighting can be used to change the layout of the court and the play-lines – transforming the court from, say, basketball to badminton at the push of a button.

ASB has now taken the concept further and has developed two different glass-based flooring products. ASB MultiSports can be used both outdoors and indoors and has been designed to be used for nearly any sport.

“The MultiSports floor not only meets all technical requirements of a modern sports floor, it offers much more,” says Christof Babinsky, ASB chief executive.

“The touchscreen allows you to switch on a professional playing field for any type of sport. The system can be installed both indoors and outdoors and even portable floors are possible.”

Meanwhile, ASB LumiFlex is a full video floor, offering a plethora of opportunities from displaying scores and statistics to commercial use during breaks in play.

“The entire floorspace is a multi-functional monitor,” Babinsky says. “The floor was designed to transform any space into a visual experience. Its patented glass surface is one of the most innovative flooring surfaces ever made and can be used for a variety of solutions ranging from sports to concerts, retail to trade shows.”

The BallsportArena in Dresden, which opened in May 2017, embraced the technology.

“This very first professional sports venue with ASB GlassFloor’s product proves the multi-functionality and durability of this type of flooring,” Babinsky adds.

“The flooring allows the venue to be used for professional team sports – but also for gala dinners and concerts. The same flooring stays in place and does not need to be covered.”

The ASB Glassfloor products are FIBA, IHF and WFS accredited
The ASB Glassfloor products are FIBA, IHF and WFS accredited
The courts can be easily changed for use by any sport
The courts can be easily changed for use by any sport

Branding it up

Rephouse
Branded flooring for
Palmeiras training centre

Brazilian football club Palmeiras, based in Sao Paulo, is one of the country’s most successful clubs. In recent years, it has invested heavily in its facility infrastructure. In 2014 it moved into a new home – Allianz Parque – which is now one of South America’s premier, multi-purpose venues.

Earlier this year, Palmeiras upgraded its training facilities to include a new indoor training centre. As well as sports science labs, indoor pitches and physio rooms, the indoor centre includes a multi-use training area.

For the training area, Palmeiras appointed international flooring specialist Rephouse to create a bespoke, branded “motivational space” for players to train in.

Rephouse provided the flooring for a large, open group exercise and warm-up area, as well as a two-lane, 25m sprint track. For the US$150,000 (€127,000, £114,000) project, the club chose a Neoflex REPtile Fitness Flooring product, with inlaid rubber graphics to highlight different training areas.

The end result shows how modern flooring products allow branding and messaging – while still providing a training surface for elite use. The sprint track has the club’s full, official name – Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras – inlaid into it and the training floor area is dominated by a 92sq m club logo.

“The floor in the training centre is a great example of a creative use of the Neoflex REPtiles with inlaid graphics,” says Michael Brinkers, managing director of Rephouse.

“It’s possible to build up detailed flooring patterns or functional marking designs in a modular, rubber tile format. Since the inlaid markings are CNC cut and inlaid under exacting manufacturing conditions, the accuracy and complexity of the designs are pretty revolutionary.”

The new training space will be used by Palmeiras’ first team, which has been a springboard for a string of world class talent, such as Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus.

One of Palmeiras’ current stars, former Inter Milan and Juventus midfielder, Felipe Melo, says the new training centre shows the club is level with the world’s top teams.

“We’re at the level of Real Madrid and Barcelona now,” Melo says. “As as soon as I arrived here, I was impressed by the training facilities provided by the club. I can say that there’s nothing to envy back in Europe – in fact, I believe our new training centre is better than Inter Milan’s.”

The flooring in the new training centre is a bespoke, branded, ‘motivational space’ for players
The flooring in the new training centre is a bespoke, branded, ‘motivational space’ for players
The sprint track has the club’s name inlaid into it
The sprint track has the club’s name inlaid into it

Tennis for everyone

Gerflor
Flexible outdoor tennis for community centre

As part of her Tennis on The Road campaign, which aimed to get more people playing tennis, Judy Murray picked Inchgarth Community Centre in Aberdeen as one of the locations to benefit from an innovative and flexible sports surface.

Murray – mother of two-time Wimbledon champion Andy – supplied Inchgarth with a PowerGame outdoor sports pitch that had been donated by Gerflor.
PowerGame’s patented design provides players with a multi-use surface that offers the traction needed for tennis, while reducing the strain on athletes. Suitable for all levels, PowerGame has been designed to overlay outdated concrete or asphalt surfaces, transforming them into colourful play surfaces.

The hard-wearing flooring was donated by Gerflor to help with Tennis on the Road initiatives in locations that are lacking of proper facilities.

The PowerGame system, which was installed earlier this year, has now become a permanent part of Inchgarth’s outdoor facilities – and is playing a key role in providing tennis lessons for the local community.
Paul O’Connor, chair and manager of Inchgarth Community Centre, said “The community is loving the PowerGame flooring. It’s being used daily, not just by children, but all members of the family. It has given us a fabulous platform from which to introduce people to tennis, and once they get a taste for it, they can then progress to our free outdoor courts.”

“The courts have given children the opportunity to try tennis, with the benefits being less anti-social behaviour, healthier children and ultimately giving the kids somewhere safe to play.”

The PowerGame flooring is being used daily by all members of the family 
– Paul O’Connor, Inchgarth Community Centre
The PowerGame flooring is being used daily by all members of the family – Paul O’Connor, Inchgarth Community Centre
Gerflor donated the flooring to Murray / © Lesley Martin/PA Archive/PA Images
Gerflor donated the flooring to Murray/ © Lesley Martin/PA Archive/PA Images

Good as new

Sports and Fitness Flooring
Redeveloping an ageing but popular centre

When Caerphilly County Borough Council decided to redevelop the ageing Caerphilly Leisure Centre, the plans included the renewal of its original flooring. The council appointed Monmouth-based Sports and Fitness Flooring (SFF) to complete the project – which quickly proved a tricky task.

“Caerphilly Leisure Centre was built more than 45 years ago,” says Darren Wood, director of SFF. “Back in the 1970s there was no requirement to provide a specific performance floor in sports halls, so the product used was a paint, applied direct to the concrete sub floor.
“The sports hall is used by a number of community groups, playing a wide range of sports. In addition, there are vulnerable user groups that were not being adequately protected from falls on the old surface.”
Wood describes the £40,000 project as having been a challenging one. “On a floor installation, paint is actually classed as a contaminant. There are very few adhesive manufacturers, if any, that would guarantee their product if you bond a synthetic sports floor to a painted surface.

“That meant that we had to remove the paint, apply a damp-proof membrane and then a latex screed to give a smooth, flat and clean surface. We used an isolating membrane and Tarkett Omnisport, for a significant saving on time and the cost of preparation works.”
Despite the challenges, SFF managed to re-lay the total of 645sq m (6,900sq ft) area, providing the centre and its members with a much-needed upgrade.

The sports hall is used by many groups for a variety of sports
The sports hall is used by many groups for a variety of sports

Lighting up the court

Versalume
Using flooring to assist refereeing and fan engagement

When the University of California, Berkeley decided to rip up and renew the hard court flooring at its Haas Pavilion indoor arena, Silicon Valley-based tech company Versalume took the opportunity to use the old court to conduct a test on a new product.

Using light-diffusing fibre technology, Versalume lit up the perimeter of the basketball court with colourful, flexible lighting. The lights were synchronised with the arena’s shot clock and game clock buzzers.

The idea behind the lighting is two-fold – to assist referees with their decision making and help arena operators improve fan experience.

With the perimeter of the floor lit up, referees have another tool to use when making in-game decisions. This is in addition to existing technology, which enables referees to use LED-lit backboards to determine whether or not a shot was released before or after time has expired.

“Our flexible, thin fibre optic laser light can be installed in places where light could never be put before,” says Kerry Keating, senior strategist at Versalume.
“With that in mind, we came up with the idea of expanding the shot clock lights – which are currently on the backboard only – by embedding them into the floor right on the outside line of the playing surface lines.

“This would help improve visibility for the referees when the shot clock and or game clock go off. When in place, and through a DMX controlled device, the lighting could also double as an entertainment lighting element for the arena production crew.”

“So when Berkeley was set to install a completely new floor, we took the opportunity to test the idea on the old floor before they ripped it out.”
Keating adds that the testing was successful – and that a fine-tuned product will have a number of uses across the sector.

“The target market for this will be all courts that need a shot clock and/or game clock lighting.”

Tests for a new way to implement lighting took place at the University of California, Berkeley / © USA TODAY Network/SIPA USA/PA Images
Tests for a new way to implement lighting took place at the University of California, Berkeley/ © USA TODAY Network/SIPA USA/PA Images
Tests were done before the old floor was ripped out
Tests were done before the old floor was ripped out

Top marks for sport

TVS Group
Enhancing a school’s sport offering

The independent Bryanston School, in Dorset, UK has a proud tradition in sport. It counts as alumni a number of top athletes – including a number of professional rugby players, cricketers and even a double-Olympic champion – German eventer Heinrich Romeike. As part of the school’s efforts to train the next generation of elite athletes it has developed a wide range of outdoor and indoor sporting facilities. These include a 25m indoor pool, a huge equestrian centre, 37 tennis courts, two all-weather playing pitches, four indoor squash courts and a large fitness club. In 2017, Bryanston School invested in a new extension to its indoor sports centre. The aim was to create three new elite performance areas – this included a 40m sprint track conforming to IAAF standards; an EN14904 (the European standard for sports floors) compliant sports hall; and an elite-level strength and conditioning area.

The school appointed UK-based sports and fitness flooring specialist TVS Group for this project, which was able to provide a full solution for all three areas. For the sports hall, TVS utilised a seamless, polyurethane, point elastic system, incorporating a four-layer build to ensure a level surface with performance characteristics suitable for multi-sport use. TVS also identified and rectified damp and level issues in the structural sub-base by installing a damp-proof membrane, as well as a self-leveling screed.

According to Andy Roberts, sales director at TVS, the most intricate aspect of the project was the installation of the 40m-sprint track. “The three-lane athletics track presented a unique challenge,” he says. “The system had to conform to IAAF standards and take a running spike, as well as meeting the strength and conditioning flooring at the same floor height and matching the colour scheme of the sports hall. Force plates were also to be installed at a point below the track and this added another level of complexity to the project.”

“We decided to use our TVS SW 1200 sandwich system, which conforms to IAAF standards. This is installed using our TVS prefabricated elastic layer, poured in polyurethane binder and an EPDM granulate spread over the top. As part of the works, the school constructed the concrete slab work in order to ensure the athletics track, hallways and strength and conditioning areas all met at the exact same height”.

In the strength and conditioning area TVS installed T40 Sportec Style Tiles, a 40mm-thick, interlocking, heavy-duty rubber gym tile. These tiles are manufactured specifically to cater to heavy weight-lifting activities. Despite the irregular shaped room – and the IAAF track running in at an acute angle – the tiles were all installed in a single day to create a large open plan free weights area.

The new sports hall will be used for a wide range of sports
The new sports hall will be used for a wide range of sports
The school’s extension project included a 40m sprint track
The school’s extension project included a 40m sprint track
Heinrich Romeike is an alumnus of Bryanston school / © Tony Marshall/EMPICS Sport
Heinrich Romeike is an alumnus of Bryanston school/ © Tony Marshall/EMPICS Sport
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