College campus tours take high school students and their parents through facilities commonly found at all universities. After passing lecture halls, dorms and food courts, tour groups are likely to stop at the campus rec center.
Campus libraries today include technology help desks, computer labs and special study rooms where once only rows of books existed. Food options have gone from basic cafeteria food to popular franchise selections. Student rec centers now include activities ranging from rock climbing walls and Olympic-size pools to spas and indoor tracks. The centers offer the most updated cardio and weightlifting stations. Only the hardwood gymnasium floor appears unchanged. However, as the saying goes, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”
Beginning in the late 1800s, hard maple became the desired species for wood flooring that dominated factories and warehouses based on its strength, wear resistance and dimensional stability. Hard maple also proved to be an excellent choice for auditoriums and athletic facilities. Since there was no emphasis on resilience or shock absorption, the same rigid subfloor construction or direct adhesion to concrete that served well for industrial use also became the norm below athletic floor surfaces. These unforgiving floors continued to be installed frequently in gymnasiums until the late 1980s.
EXTRA CREDIT: When it comes to hardwood floors in your facility, you need to keep in mind the wood moisture content levels. Here’s where to start.
The hard maple flooring found in gymnasiums 100 years ago is the same species commonly in wood floor applications today. However, it’s highly unlikely a hardwood athletic floor installation within the last 30 to 40 years includes rigid subfloor support. Floors located in campus rec centers today may appear like gym floors installed many years ago. However, it is highly likely present-day floors include some type of resiliency and shock-absorbing characteristics not provided in original prominent designs.
Today’s hardwood athletic floors offer numerous subfloor construction designs. These include various elastic component options:
- Individually spaced flexible pads
- Lineal resilient sections
- Full foam blanket support.
Subfloor configurations are frequently combined with a selected resilient component option to achieve performance characteristics such as:
- Force reduction
- Vertical deformation
- Basketball rebound as established for hardwood athletic floor systems
While the surface may look much the same as it did years ago, the response to athletic impacts is much different. You might say that “you can’t judge a floor by its cover.”