Great Performance And Good Looks

One day, it seems you're looking around your recreation facility and you love what you see--a clean, shiny floor, great seating for spectators, and bright lights.

A few practices, camps, indoor competitions, and community events later, and the whole picture changes.

There is gum stuck to the bleachers, and a few light fixtures are out, giving the place an uneven, yellowish cast. And whose bright idea was it to let spectators bring in confetti? Now it's stuck to the areas where someone spilled a soft drink.

Looks like your plans for the week are about to include a lot of sprucing up. Who knew a gym could be this much work?

It doesn't have to be--at least not all at once.

The important thing to remember, say sports-facility contractors, is that the facility didn't become run-down and dirty overnight. Day by day, debris built up, a little at a time, and day after day, equipment was used. The place starts looking dull and dingy.

What’s the best way to get rid of these problems? Plan a maintenance schedule that works against that type of buildup--care for the facility day by day, a little at a time.

The Inside Word

Gymnasiums, being indoor facilities, don’t have to withstand the freeze-thaw cycle that plagues outdoor fields, tennis courts, jogging paths, and basketball courts. The gym won't suffer from the effects of rain, wind, sleet, or hail either.

But it's not immune to dust and dirt, or to wear and tear. Some of this will show up on the facility's floor, and some will be reflected in ancillary components like spectator seating, athletic equipment, and more.

Make sure the maintenance program addresses every aspect of the facility.

Helping Multi-Tasking Facilities

If a gym has multiple uses (different sports, social events, meetings, and more), some aspects (a running or jogging track, for example) may be constructed of a combination of movable and fixed portions, or made of a prefabricated surface that can be taken up and stored when not in use.

Bleachers can be folded against walls, and partition curtains or netting can be drawn to section-off areas. Many facilities use retractable basketball nets, or temporary nets with weighted bases; volleyball nets and tennis nets also can be set up in a similar manner.

Just because equipment can be moved when not in use doesn't mean it can be disregarded the rest of the time. Keep all equipment (volleyball nets and posts, inline hockey sticks, ball cages, goal nets, etc.) in good repair. If wrestling mats are used, be sure they're disinfected with each use, to guard against infection.

Basketball nets and backboards should be kept in shape, and the mechanisms that raise and lower them (if applicable) should work easily and smoothly.

A multi-section track should fit together each time without tripping hazards caused by ill-fitting sections. Remember that an athlete, concentrating on his or her performance, will not notice a problem or imperfection until it's too late. Take the time to do the repairs early and lower the risk of injury.

Check the condition of team benches, spectator bleachers, and hand rails--anything that comes into physical contact with athletes and the public on a regular basis. Look for sharp corners or splintering edges, and repair any you find--before a spectator finds it the unpleasant way.

Wipe down all surfaces. Make sure to vacuum and sweep around spectator areas, such as benches, seats, and bleachers, to remove paper cups, plastic bottles, and candy wrappers.

If gum is stuck to seats or flooring, chill the gum with ice until it is brittle, then carefully remove it.


Flooring in gyms may be either wood or synthetic, coated concrete, or even modular. Upkeep techniques will differ for each type, so keep the name of the manufacturer and/or installer on hand, and call for advice on repairs or stain removal.

For day-to-day upkeep, broom the surface clean, or use a soft, dry mop to keep dirt or other material from being ground in, creating scuff marks.

Make sure athletes wear proper shoes for the surface.

Most sports-facility contractors say that keeping food (including gum) and colored beverages (sports drinks, sodas, juice, etc.) out of the facility will go a long way in keeping a gym floor clean. Realistically, this may not be possible in municipal facilities, so a daily walk-through is recommended in order to stay on top of changing conditions. If there is a problem, prompt action can help avoid more costly treatments.

Know the warranty of the floor. If it can be damaged by heavy loads or improper footwear, ask the manufacturer or contractor for ideas on protecting the facility, since its multi-purpose nature may require it to host community forums, social events, and other activities. A contractor or manufacturer may have recommendations on coverings that can be used to protect the floor from dings, dents, and damage.

Note: If your facility includes a weight room, locker room, etc., the flooring (and equipment) in these areas will require regular care in order to keep them not merely clean but sanitized for each user. As always, check with the manufacturer and/or installer to obtain the best recommendations.

Many gyms have dispensers of sanitizing wipes available to allow users to clean equipment before and after each use, and the use of antibacterial soap and lotion is becoming more commonplace in locker rooms.

An ever-increasing number of products meant to combat the spread of infections, such as CA-MRSA, are now on the market; however, not all products are effective in every situation, and some may actually cause more problems than they address.

Entire books have been written on the subject of cleanliness in athletic facilities, and this article is not able to address these concerns. Consult with a healthcare professional about the best way to ensure sanitary conditions.


Another essential aspect of indoor-facility maintenance is lighting. The lighting must be kept in good repair for it to be adequate for the athletes and spectators, and to create safe conditions. A well-lit facility also looks cleaner and better cared-for than one that has dark spots or dim bulbs; therefore, it is essential to do immediate repair or replacement of any fixtures that are damaged or lamps that are burned out.

A wide variety of lamps, fixtures, and mountings are available. Some light sources, such as high-intensity discharge (HID) and fluorescent lighting, require a warm-up period after they are switched on, and before they reach maximum strength.

Other types, such as incandescent lights, can be switched on and are immediately at full power. In many cases, changing lamps or repairing/replacing fixtures will require a contractor with special lifts or other equipment.

If the facility hosts sanctioned competitions, the level of light inside the facility takes on an added measure of importance because governing bodies for sports will set specific lighting levels for various activities (recreational and training, club competition, national and international competition, etc.).

In these cases, having acceptable lighting is more than just aesthetics; it is a requirement. The Illuminating Engineering Society of North America offers a comprehensive publication titled Sports and Recreation Area Lighting, which recommends various levels of lighting on a sport-by-sport basis.

A Little Care

A gym can be a last-ditch place that keeps activities from being rained out, or it can be an asset to a park agency. The good news is you don't need a fortune to turn it into the latter--all it takes is investing a few hours here and there, and using a good maintenance schedule.

Treat a facility with respect and care, and it will reward you with great performance and good looks for years to come.

Note: The American Sports Builders Association (ASBA) is a non-profit association helping designers, builders, owners, operators, and users understand quality sports-facility construction. The ASBA sponsors informative meetings and publishes newsletters, books, and technical construction guidelines for athletic facilities, including indoor sports surfaces. Available at no charge is a listing of all publications offered by the Association, as well as the ASBA’s Membership Directory. Info: 866-501-ASBA (2722) or

Mary Helen Sprecher has been a technical writer for more than 20 years with the American Sports Builders Association. She has written on various topics relating to sports-facility design, construction and supply, as well as sports medicine, education, health and industrial issues. She is an avid racquetball and squash player, and a full-time newspaper reporter in Baltimore, Md.