Meeting an Operational Challenge
November 1, 2012
The Care of Flooring, Carpet and Turf
While the recession continues, for lack of a better word, to recede, owners and operators of facilities with mini-golf and go-kart components continue to believe that when it comes to carpet, turf and flooring, diligent cleaning and maintenance, coupled with preventive measures, beat frequent replacement. They also find that no single type of surface is more difficult to keep clean than another, and are addressing this accordingly.
“Whether it’s in the arcade or out on the mini-golf course, floor covering of any kind costs a lot of money,” said Becky Olbrych, owner of Wheels Fun Park in Durham, N.C. “We want to safeguard our investment, not throw it away before its time and start all over again.”
Wheels Fun Park’s mini-golf carpet is replaced once every three years, an interval Olbrych deemed more frequent than she would like, but unavoidable because of heavy use. Dirt and other debris tracked onto mini-golf holes poses the operator’s most significant outdoor carpet, turf and flooring challenge, which has been addressed in part with the installation of wider and longer-than-average-walkways beside the greens.
Indoors, the operator’s major flooring concerns include preventing brightly tinted icing used on birthday cakes from permanently staining the patio tiles in the snack bar, where parties are held. Immediate removal of any stray icing that falls onto the floor tiles takes care of the problem, as does daily power-washing. Carpet found in other areas of the facility, for example, in the play gym, is 20 years old and in good shape. Olbrych attributed the latter to several precautions, among them the placement of foam mats underneath the carpeting to stave off premature wear.
“We went with pricier carpeting to start, because we knew it would last longer, and we were sure there would be a savings from putting the mats underneath,” Olbrych added. “Sometimes you have to bite the bullet; this was one of those times.”
The fact that no one is permitted to enter the play gym with food or beverages of any kind, chew gum in the facility (staff watch for offenders and politely ask them to wrap it in paper and discard it in a trash receptacle) or walk on the carpet unless they have removed their shoes, further preserves its “integrity,” as do daily vacuuming with a commercial vacuum cleaner. A monthly shampooing helps to remove residual perspiration that rub off patrons’ socks and may degrade the carpet; the shampoo also contributes to the carpet’s overall cleanliness and imparts a fresh scent.
The tracking of debris, in this case, mulch and fertilizer, onto mini-golf carpet proves equally problematic for All Star Sports West in Wichita, Kan. “There’s something about mulch, because when we’ve just applied it, people tend to step in it and then it comes off their sneakers or shoes,” observed Stacie White, manager. Compounding the problem, she added, are leaves from the “tons of trees” found throughout the mini-golf course, as well as the significant volume of run-off debris washed down the course’s hills in the rain and onto the playing surface.
Prior to opening each day and at shift change time (4 p.m.,) staff members equipped with blowers are dispatched to the mini-golf course to blow away any loose debris and leaves. Power-washing once weekly also aids in keeping the carpet clean.
White noted that in the past, damage to the area of the mini-golf carpet closest to the tee-off spot occurred too often for the operator’s taste. Tee-off mats have since been cut “into” the carpet, thereby guarding against nicking with clubs and other miscellaneous deterioration.
Although All Star Sports West has textured printed concrete floors in its kitchen, snack bar and entranceways, the bulk of its interior features carpeted floors. Here, the biggest headache is ensuring that loose debris on the carpet on, around and between the more than 150 games in the arcade is properly vacuumed up at closing time. Supplying smaller, lightweight Shop-Vac units to staff makes it easier; “we don’t have to worry about 16-year-old girls lugging around heavy equipment,” White asserted.
Moreover, to avert problems with gum adhering to the carpet, chewing it is prohibited at All Sports. Neither gum nor stickers, which White deemed “just as bad when it comes to getting stuck in the carpet,” are included in party favor bags provided by the facility.
Meanwhile, minimizing mini-golf carpet damage that stems from customers walking on it when leaves, dirt, grass and fertilizer are present and primed to be ground in tops the list of concerns at Putt-Putt Fun Center in Lynchburg, Va. “The objective is to let carpet be walked on, without being marred” by any or all of these elements, said Joe Albion, owner.
Albion has discovered that utilizing “backpack blowers” to remove debris from carpet throughout the mini-golf course is a must not once a day, but two or three times daily. “Like the spills and things that happen inside, the” blowing of loose grass, fertilizer and leaves onto the carpet and the appearance of dirt on the surface is “never-ending. There’s nothing really hard about it, but you need procedures to stay on top of it.”
Putt-Putt Fun Center’s game room is tiled, and other areas are carpeted. Averting residual damage from spills, especially on the carpet, can be challenging; this challenge is minimizing by making employees responsible for keeping an eagle eye out for spills, wiping them up immediately and applying a neutralizing solution where necessary. Gum, which is not sold in the facility, is removed from the carpet by first freezing it with an ice cube and then, chipping it off.
Even operators whose mini-golf courses are indoors face carpet maintenance challenges. Josh McCahan, owner of Fun Central, in Clearfield, Pa., finds himself constantly grappling with the visibility of debris on his facility’s black-light indoor course. “Every single speck of dust shows,” he said. Vacuuming nightly and at the end of shifts keeps such visibility to a minimum, while another big snafus, gum on the carpet as well as on the epoxy floors, is handled via immediate treatment with a solvent-type product called Gum Wizard.
With the epoxy floors, McCahan reported, the difficulty is not so much dust, but rather, stains and general wear. “We have signs that tell our guests they cannot bring food or drink onto the mini-golf course or into the arcade, but unfortunately, there will always be offenders,” he asserted. Spills are mopped up as they occur, and the floor is stripped and waxed every two to three months to keep it looking new. –