The Selwyn District has seen the highest population growth in New Zealand over the last 10 years, and this drove the need for a major sport and recreation facility for the growing population. The timing of the global pandemic further highlighted the need for community-based wellness activities to improve peoples’ physical, mental, and emotional health. Thankfully, the Selwyn District Council, through Major Projects Manager and ex New Zealand Cricket representative, John Reid, had undertaken an ambitious project several years earlier to build a world-class sports and recreation centre twenty minutes north of Christchurch.
Working on a fixed budget of only 21 million NZ dollars (about 14 million USD, 17 million EUR), Reid and the council developed a lofty vision for a facility that would include:
- Four full-size wooden courts
- Four polyurethane courts
- A 240-meter mezzanine walking track
- A multipurpose/group fitness room with a full kitchen
- Another multipurpose room with a kitchenette
- Tuckshop with full kitchen facilities
- An event administration area
- A spin suite with space for 25 Body Bike® Smart+ bikes
- A Lü Uno® interactive wall
- Administrative offices
- Changing facilities and bathrooms
In addition to providing the space for a wide variety of sporting activities, Reid and his team wanted diversity of use and planned for a more durable sports surface to be able to host farmers’ markets, car and motorcycle shows, and an assortment of other community events.
Designing a Successful Facility from the Floors Up
Combining this long list of disparate requirements with the already limited budget meant that the building’s design and materials would need to focus more on functionality and durability than on appearance, especially when it came to the flooring systems. With up to a quarter-million annual visitors expected, wear and tear would play a significant role in the floors’ life expectancy and long-term performance. In addition, the facility would be a showpiece for the community and potentially host nationally televised sporting events, so visual appeal remained a critical design consideration.
Iain Ansell, business development manager of Apollo Projects, the council’s primary contractor for the centre’s construction, knew that key to the project’s success was determining the best flooring solutions for each space and then designing the building around them.
Innovative Solutions for Sports Flooring on a Fixed Budget
Although original plans included asphalt surfaces in four of the eight courts, Ansell was adamant about avoiding it. “I didn’t want asphalt,” he explains, “Having seen a variety of international facilities, I knew that a roller hockey surface like Herculan RH the right way to go. It’s tough, easy to clean, and if it ever needs to be resurfaced, it’s quick and economical to do.”
Having worked with Apollo Projects in the past, Chris Dennett, director of coincidently-named Action Floors New Zealand (not affiliated with Action Floors USA), couldn’t have agreed more. As Dennett puts it, “A top-notch polyurethane like Herculan is vital to the performance, appearance, and long-term durability of the courts’ surface – not to mention, it’s easy to apply. Ease of application means a lot when my seven-person installation team is working eight hours nonstop applying it to over 2,800 square meters of floor space!”
Dennett’s praise is music to the ears of Martin Oakes, regional sales manager at Herculan High Performance Flooring. Oakes says,
“We developed our Herculan products to be the perfect combination of durability, outstanding high performance, appearance and ease of application while also keeping them affordable for projects like this.”
The affordability of the Herculan products contributed to an additional, unexpected benefit: the cost savings allowed for the addition of an elevated two-lane walking track surrounding the four timber courts. This has proven to be one of the highlights of the building and has garnered significant interest in the New Zealand sports industry. Norm Goedheer, Australasia representative for Action Floor Systems USA, freely admits, “I stole the idea from facilities we’ve installed in the United States and suggested it to Iain Ansell at Apollo Projects. I have no doubt that it helped them secure the project.”
From the project’s inception, it was a foregone conclusion that the other four courts would be maple. Still, there was concern that the cost of putting high-quality timber in a space of that size would force quality compromises elsewhere in the facility. Since exceptional playability, ball response, and performance were paramount, Dennett knew that the Action ProAir WBS floating system with a water-based mat finish was the best choice. The system utilizes wide body sleepers combined with a 5/8″ Action E-Cush pad for the perfect combination of stability, strength, and superior ball response.
Using Action’s first grade maple in a top-quality system like ProAir WBS would have driven the project over budget, so the design team decided on third grade timber. Since the color variations and inherent beauty of Action’s third grade wood are cosmetic only, they have no impact on durability or performance. As a result, it ended up being the perfect choice for the Selwyn Sports Centre’s wide-open spaces and minimalistic interior design. According to Dave Tippett, the facility’s director, “The effect of the grain pattern of the third grade maple is stunning. It transforms a simple hardwood floor into one of the facility’s most attractive features.”
Dennett agrees, “I was blown away. When you stand back and look at it, you’re like, ‘We did this? This is awesome!’”
The system of choice for the elevated walking track surrounding the timber courts was Herculan MF (Multi-Function) Blue, which combines a 2mm flexible topcoat with a 6mm foam shock pad. The surface was chosen for its point elastic properties, durability, and exclusive VOC-free, water-based, nontoxic top coat – meaning no residual fume issues to contend with after application. It also provides excellent tear and tensile strength, is highly water resistant, and is nonporous, making it easy to clean.
The track has proven to be one of the centre’s most iconic features, so it’s ironic that it was only made possible by lower-than-expected construction costs. “We feel very fortunate to have it.” says Tippett. “It’s amazing how much attention it’s garnered from both our users and the surrounding communities.”
The Keys to Flooring Success: People, Planning, and Pride
Projects of this magnitude are typically fraught with challenges, but in this case there were very few. Ansell gives credit to the people involved. “Success is all about relationships. On this project, everyone worked together to achieve the end goal rather than just trying to make money. And we’re all pretty proud of the result.”
That’s not to say there weren’t a few bumps along the way. Dennett injured his back while installing the Herculan RH flooring and was on crutches for three weeks. “All I could do was supervise during the timber installation,” he chuckles. “Needless to say, I took a ribbing from my crew about the lengths I’d go to just to get out of work.”
Another challenge developed when a delay in fully enclosing the building led to birds nesting in the rafters. The resulting rain of avian excrement added a less-than-tidy (but removable) quality to the newly-installed floors.
When projects don’t go well, people want to know what went wrong so it doesn’t happen again. When a project goes well, as it did with the floors in the Selwyn Sports Centre, it’s equally important to look at what factors contributed to that success. Each of the project’s decision-makers gained a unique perspective on what made the difference between creating a surface for people to walk on and creating something to be proud of for years to come.
Ansell, like the others, saw immense value in picking the right people for the job and being sensitive to the council’s desire that sustainability be a major consideration in designing the facility and choosing materials.
“Having good people is vital. Chris (Dennett) and his wife moved here temporarily to supervise construction. They, and their installation team, became the model for all of the other subcontractors. The care they took with every aspect of the project, and their attention to detail, was incredible. They also understood the need to provide sustainable products and materials, which was a key factor in Action Floors being chosen for the job.”
Dennett also felt that the people involved were the driving force behind the project’s success, but also offers some pragmatic advice for anyone involved in a similar project.
“Maintaining a good relationship with people who really know what they are doing with each different flooring type makes a huge difference. They know the importance of using the best products and materials possible and not taking shortcuts.
Oh, and make sure the doors are wide enough for the materials you’re bringing in. We had to do quite a bit of manhandling to get the maple flooring through the door.”
Having not been involved in the initial planning phases of the centre, Tippett has a slightly different perspective on the reasons behind the project’s favorable outcome. He also offers some suggestions for further increasing the level of success.
“I was pleased with the plans I saw, but felt some spaces might be a bit small for things like spinning classes. Getting an operator like myself onboard earlier can prevent oversights like that. We know how people move and how spaces get used.
The same is true with getting national and regional sport organizations involved up-front to ensure that details like court lines and net height are consistent with international standards. Focusing on community sports and recreation was the right thing to do for this project, but keep an open mind regarding alternate uses. Connect with as many potential users and managing bodies as possible to get valuable input on the design choices you’re making.”
The Culmination of a Vision
Addressing big challenges like the exponential population growth to cater to the needs of the community requires more than just money; it requires a grand vision and the right dedicated people to carry it out. In this case, that’s precisely what the people of the Selwyn district of New Zealand got, and the end result is a facility that not only meets the needs of the community, but will serve as a source of pride for decades to come.
Sadly, the man behind the vision of the Selwyn Sports Centre didn’t live to see the building’s completion, but there’s little doubt he’d be honored to stand on the hardwood courts that now bear his name: The John F. Reid Courts.
Looking for innovative solutions for your next flooring project? Speak to an expert at Action Floor Systems to learn more about synthetic flooring and other creative solutions to help make your project a reality. Contact us today to get started.