Acer saccharum or Northern Hard Maple, and this is why:
Let’s start with a brief history of basketball, volleyball, Maple and their relationships to the gymnasium…….
*The game of basketball was invented in 1882.
*Maple trees were first harvested for flooring in 1885.
*William Horner became the first manufacturer of Northern Maple flooring in 1891.
*In 1886 volleyball was invented, and in 1897 the MFMA was formed. (Maple flooring Manufactures Association)
*In 1900 the first single pass flooring mill was designed and produced.
So, by the year 1900 basketball had been around for 18 years, volleyball had been around for 4 years, an organization had been formed to organized flooring mills, and Maple flooring can be milled quickly and efficiently.
Did Maple become the “go to” gym floor because it was readily available, it was installed in the very “first” gyms and as a result it just became the industry standard?
This is a great question, and it bares consideration. The world was a much bigger place in 1900. No internet, no fax machine, no airplanes, virtually no motorized transportation, except trains.
As a result, builders prior to 1900 would have had much more difficulty trying to compare different wood species from different parts of the world. It would have been VERY difficult to visit with other contractors from other places to find out about their experiences.
In the beginning, Maple was likely installed in gymnasium’s just out of availability & convenience.
However, Maple flooring would not have lasted as the worldwide standard for Gymnasium courts for 120 plus years unless it had some benefits beyond the initial inertia.
* Maple is a dense Hardwood excellent for ball bounce.
* Maple is very hard, giving it great long term wear resistance.
* Maple’s bright light-colored appearance is attractive.
* Maple is loved by cabinet shops because it has a smooth grain and a non-porous surface making it a great option for a variety of finishes and paints. Today’s gymnasium floors feature a combination of stain, paint, and vinyl.
There are other wood products that have been used for gymnasium floors. Likely the most famous is the Boston Garden Red Oak Parkette floor.
In spite of the fact that this floor was absolutely legendary, (it hosted the Celtics for 17 Championships) Oak never caught on as a gym flooring material, as it does not have the many benefits of Maple as outlined above.
Enter the Synthetics:
There are a number of synthetic gym floor options, rubber tiles, welded seam vinyl, and pad & pour polyurethane gym floors.
We will explore the benefits of pad & pour polyurethane, as this is the only synthetic system that is really a viable alternative to Maple for a competitive sports surface.
As the name suggests pad & pour polyurethane floor systems feature a rubber pad that is glued to the concrete, then multiple layers of polyurethane are over poured on site. Creating a seamless floor system wall to wall.
These systems look attractive, have relatively low maintenance, and feature good longevity. However, because the pad is glued directly to concrete, they tend to be harder and offer the athlete less protection.
The pad and pour systems just do not have the beauty and “wow” factor of a Maple floor. Ascetics being extremely important in new construction, pad and pour systems are rarely seriously considered in high profile newly constructed projects.
One area that Pad and Pour Synthetic systems seem to have a distinct advantage over Maple floors is in multipurpose rooms designed to serve as both a gym and cafeteria. Similarly, multipurpose rooms designed as meeting rooms and reception rooms, where food is often served. These rooms work well with pad and pour systems because the synthetic surface tolerates the food and liquid spills better than the Maple will.
The real “secret” to the Maple Gymnasium floor is the substrate. We see the beautiful Maple floor with the incredible graphics, we can feel the ball bounce, and love the look of a natural product. However, Underneath is where things get interesting. As traditional as a Maple floor looks from the top, underneath its packed with modern technology. Scientists, Engineers, Sports Medicine Professionals, and Biomedical Professionals are constantly working to make Maple gymnasium floors safer more comfortable surfaces for today’s World CLASS ATHELETES.
This is a Robbins MVP gym floor system. This system is a technological marvel.
We will talk more about sub floor systems in another article.
Maple and gymnasium floors have been happily married for 120 years; this relationship seems destined to last far into the future!