Hit the Floor


Flooring is the unsung hero of recreation centers. It can enhance performance, be a focal design element, and if chosen correctly, withstand the test of time. The ultimate challenge becomes choosing who to work with in the flooring industry and what aspects to take into consideration.

Choosing a Company

With so many companies in the flooring marketplace to choose from, sifting through them can sometimes be a challenge. Rex Pringle, the director of RecSports at the University of Tennessee, said when it comes time for their rec center to add new flooring, they choose to collaborate with companies that have longevity in the industry.

“I have found that it is better to work with the companies that have experienced and survived through the difficult times with the economy,” said Pringle. “They have products and methods that have lasted and the companies will stand behind their products.”

He also noted that sometimes a deal or contract can change if you have a conversation with the distributor. If you have a project that will take place over an extended period of time, it can be a good idea to plan ahead and think about warranties.

“I like to review the warranty information and discuss extending the warranty when we are spending substantial amounts of money,” said Pringle. “I have had good experiences with companies that are willing to extend their warranty by one or two years on a substantial project.”

Andrew Darling, director of campus recreation at West Virginia University, said he always reaches out to other universities before choosing a company to work with, in order to learn the pros and cons of their experiences.

“An operator’s feedback on things like color choices can be useful and are hard to appreciate prior to installation,” said Darling. “External resources such as the Maple Flooring Manufacturers Association can be helpful in understanding both wood and synthetic flooring specifications and how well a particular product may meet those specs. Depending on the anticipated use, a variety of flooring grades are available. It’s important to make sure the right product, appropriate to your facility’s needs, is selected.”


Replacement schedules for flooring can vary on life expectancy, use, wear and funding. With a strategy for daily, monthly and yearly maintenance, some can live past their expectancy.

Pringle explained they chose Mondo rubber flooring for sections of the rec center because it has a typical life expectancy of 20 years when maintained correctly. Their gym spaces, fitness studios and racquetball courts all have maple wood flooring.

The University of Tennessee offers Luxury Vinyl Tile in the hallways. While styles of tile flooring can last up to 100 years, it can sometimes be the hardest flooring style to replace.

“Tile flooring many times gets stained or damaged over the years and it is hard to find the same tile as they discontinue colors and styles, so a replacement plan many times takes place when you are doing a facility renovation or refresh,” said Pringle. “The color of these floor tiles can also date your facility, which makes it imperative that you look at this.”

Pringle also explained they replace their areas with carpet every 10 years at the University of Tennessee. He suggested utilizing carpet tiles instead of rolls, in order to replace stains or wears immediately.

Darling emphasized planning ahead when thinking of replacement schedules. Knowing the lifespan of flooring is important and can make starting renovation projects go much smoother if they are planned years in advanced. West Virginia University is already looking at replacement for certain flooring styles.

“The Sport Impact product has a 10-plus year life expectancy,” said Darling. “We have that project forecasted on our Capital Plan for 10 years out and will update it as we get closer. When it comes time for replacement, we will initiate a project within our Facilities Management office, and work with one or more project managers to complete the process.”

Maintaining Outdoor Flooring

At the University of Tennessee, they have a 12-year-old turf field area adjacent to their rec facility. It is equally important to take care of your outside flooring as what you offer inside your recreation center.

“Maintenance on these fields is brushing, which uses magnets attached to a brush to pick up any loose metal on the field playing surface, on a monthly basis, or more as needed, and sweeping with yard sweepers to pick up any loose materials from the field approximately two times per year,” said Pringle. “Approximately, every three years, pellet and sand infill mix is spread on the fields and swept back into the surface.”

Marching bands at universities usually practice on a rec center’s outdoor fields. This always needs to be taken into consideration for replacement and longevity of maintaining these turf fields. Pringle explained that one area of their rec fields has a longer lifespan than the other because of this.

“RecSports expects a longer lifecycle for the fields at Sutherland compared to the fields adjacent to the TRECS facility, as the UTK Marching Band practices on this field from August to December each year,” said Pringle. “The continuous pattern of the marching band and related compaction issues is not recommended or supported by any turf field vendor.”


John Lloyd, interim director of campus recreation at the University of Arizona, said he always asks himself a series of questions to keep in mind when it comes to the upkeep of their rec facility.

“We always take into consideration the maintenance and upkeep of flooring,” said Lloyd. “Do you need to refinish the floor regularly? Does it require any special maintenance or cleaning procedures, and is your current staff able to do this or would you need to hire a specialist?”

Establishing a well-devised cleaning strategy can help get the most out of different styles of flooring. No style should be treated the same, and if handled with care they can last much longer. At WVU, the custodial staff puts down a neutral cleaner and uses a floor scrubber for all sport flooring.

“The best results I’ve seen are when hot water is used with the cleaner, and it is left on the surface for a few minutes prior to extracting it,” said Darling. “Running the floor machine at high speed doesn’t allow the product to work on the dirt as well.”

In terms of wood flooring, WVU dry-mops the floors a couple times a day and also cleans with the floor scrubber as needed. Darling explained they put an emphasis on keeping the water to accumulate and then extract it immediately.

RecSports at the University of Tennessee tries to keep in mind that all flooring needs specific care. The Mondo flooring is cleaned with Profi, a neutral cleaner. The wood floors, when new, have a small amount of sealer on them, which cannot take much water from the automatic scrubber.

“RecSports has worked to use the walk-behind brooms with damp towels to remove any dirt from the floor surface without having to scrub these floors,” said Pringle. “The goal is to only use the walk-behind machine on the wood floors one or two times max until there are four milliliters or more of finish, and spot cleaning with a damp mop.”

Flooring can be a vital part to your recreation center. By planning ahead and creating cleaning and maintenance schedules you can ensure your flooring surfaces will last your students for years to come.


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