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The Evolution of Maple Sports Floors: A Look Back at the Industry’s Rich History

Maple sports floors have been an integral part of athletic facilities for over a century, showcasing resilience and adaptability in the face of changing market trends and technological advancements. This blog post, inspired by an in-depth article on the history of maple flooring, highlights the key moments in the industry’s growth and transformation, shedding light on the challenges and successes that have shaped the maple sports floor landscape today.

The Early Days of Maple Sports Floors

The maple flooring industry’s story began in the late 19th century when the Maple Flooring Manufacturers Association (MFMA) was founded in 1897. At the time, wood flooring was the go-to choice for industrial and commercial applications due to its durability and availability. The first patented maple flooring system, known as the “interlocking” or “end-matched” flooring, was introduced in 1891 and remained a popular choice for decades.

The impact of the World Wars

During World War II, the industrial maple floor industry experienced a boom, with factories like the Red Dot Potato Chip plant in Madison, Wisconsin, relying heavily on maple floors. However, as the war ended, advancements in kiln monitoring led to improved flooring, and the maple flooring work began to wane.

The shift to suburban living and the advent of new floor coverings like linoleum and carpet challenged the maple flooring industry. Many companies either retired or diversified into other wood flooring options like residential oak. By the late 1950s, the demand for maple factory floors significantly declined.

The Rise of School Gymnasium Installations

Despite the challenges faced by the industry, school gymnasium installations emerged as a thriving market. During the 1950s and 1960s, a surge in school construction led to a massive demand for maple floors in gymnasiums. Cincinnati Floor Co., for instance, installed as many as 100 gymnasiums per year during this time.

The development of floor systems and advanced cushioned systems with rubber pads also played a crucial role in the industry’s growth. These innovations allowed manufacturers to offer complete flooring solutions rather than just individual hardwood flooring products.

The Shift to Portable Sports Floors

As the 1970s arrived, the use of portable sports floors grew in popularity due to the increasing demand for multi-purpose facilities that could host basketball, hockey, and other events within the same space. This trend led to the development of new floor systems that prioritized athlete safety and comfort without compromising on stability.

Industry Changes and Evolution

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the maple sports flooring industry underwent significant transformations with mergers, acquisitions, and new entrants shaping the market landscape. Companies like Robbins, Horner, Connor/AGA, Superior Floor Company, and Action Floor Systems emerged as key players during this period.

The industry’s focus shifted from just durability to creating sports floors that were more athlete-friendly. Manufacturers developed systems that allowed the floor to absorb most of the impact from a falling or jumping athlete while ensuring that the impact did not adversely affect other players.

Maple Sports Floors in the Residential Market

In recent years, maple flooring has experienced a resurgence in the residential market, thanks to changing interior design trends that favor lighter wood tones. Although most MFMA members still focus on sports floors, some manufacturers have capitalized on this opportunity, producing prefinished and laminated maple floors for residential and industrial applications.

Maple Flooring vs. Synthetic Surfaces

Throughout its history, the maple sports flooring industry has faced stiff competition from synthetic surfaces. The 1960s saw the introduction of synthetics like urethane and PVC, which initially posed a significant threat to maple flooring. The MFMA took a proactive approach, commissioning studies to compare the safety and life-cycle costs of maple flooring with synthetic alternatives.

In 1988, a study revealed a 70% higher chance of athlete injury on urethane or PVC floors compared to MFMA-approved maple floors. Another study showed that the life-cycle costs of urethane or PVC surfaces were over 40% higher than maple flooring. These findings helped to reaffirm the value of maple flooring and counterbalance the growing popularity of synthetic surfaces.

The Present and Future of Maple Sports Floors

The maple sports flooring industry has come a long way since its inception in the late 19th century. By 1994, MFMA maple flooring’s market share had risen from 48% in 1984 to 54% in the U.S. sports floor market. Observers predict continued growth for the residential maple market as well.

Today, companies like Western Sport Floors continue to innovate and develop high-quality, compliant, and resilient maple sports floors that cater to the needs of modern athletes and facilities. The industry’s focus remains on creating floors that prioritize athlete safety, comfort, and performance.

The evolution of the maple sports flooring industry is a testament to its adaptability, resilience, and commitment to quality. From the early days of industrial flooring to the modern era of athlete-centric sports floors, maple flooring has consistently demonstrated its value and versatility. As the industry continues to innovate and adapt to changing market demands and trends, it is poised to remain a preferred choice for sports facilities and residential applications alike.

With thanks to the historical insights provided by the article, we can better appreciate the rich history and growth of the maple sports flooring industry. Here at Western Sport Floors, we are proud to continue the legacy of providing top-quality maple sports floors that cater to the evolving needs of athletes and facilities across the country.

Source for this article: Kim WahlgrenA History: 100 Years of Maple Wood Flooring