For the opening weekend of the Basketball Bundesliga, games will be played on a high-tech glass surface in Munich for the first time. This could revolutionise nothing less than the whole of indoor sport.
Since its invention in 1891 by Canadian physical education teacher James Naismith, basketball has been played predominantly on wooden parquet floors. This could soon change permanently: On Friday, the Bundesliga match between FC Bayern and Mitteldeutsche BC in Munich’s BMW Park will be played on a high-tech glass floor made by the German company ASB GlassFloor. This will be the first time in the world that a professional basketball league game will be played on glass – and the signs are good that this test trial could become the standard in basketball. Even the American NBA is already showing interest in the German “wonder floor”.
“This is a very exciting story. I believe that this is the future of basketball,” says Marko Pesic, general manager of FC Bayern Basketball, about the new playing surface in the run-up to the start of the season. Thus, his team around the newly crowned world champions Andreas Obst, Isaac Bonga and Niels Giffey will play on an LED glass floor on Friday, which, besides displaying the court lines, offers almost unlimited possibilities for player tracking, tactics overlays, show staging and marketing. Even in the sport of basketball, which is at the forefront of entertainment compared to many other sports, this introduction is likely to set new standards.
The surface was already successfully tested in the summer at the U-19 Women’s World Cup in Madrid. Previously, the basketball world federation FIBA had made the introduction of the special floor possible with its decision to approve the use of LED glass surfaces in addition to parquet. After initial scepticism, the feedback from the women was very positive: “It was not easy for us to take the step away from the sacred wood. The feedback from the players is especially important to FIBA. Many would not have expected that this floor would feel so natural. You have the expectation that it will be different, but it’s not that different. It’s better,” said FIBA Secretary General Andreas Zagklis after the successful test run in Madrid.
Added value for athletes and fans
It’s not a billion-dollar tech company from Silicon Valley that’s behind the glass innovation, but the Bavarian family business ASB GlassFloor from Stein an der Traun, not far from Lake Chiemsee. It was here that entrepreneur Horst Babinsky had the idea 20 years ago that it would be possible to play sports on glass. His son, today’s managing director Christof Babinsky, implemented this idea and now wants to change the sport of basketball sustainably with his product: “The glass floor should not be a gimmick, but bring the athletes benefits for better performance and the fans added value for a better spectator experience.”
Better performance through more bounce and control: The floor consists of two thick safety glass panels on an LED display, which in turn is located on aluminium elements. Thus, the floor offers optimised elasticity and shock absorption for the athlete. Burnt-in ceramic dots provide additional grip. In addition, all floor moisture evaporates quickly due to the heat of the LED light. The risk of injury from fire friction after a fall is also much lower.
According to Babinsky, the spectator experience is to be enhanced by completely new perspectives – whether by displaying real-time data such as player and ball tracking systems or by showing impressive graphics. This makes spectacular animations of line-ups, statistics and special match actions possible. In addition, the surfaces offer a lot of advertising potential.
What makes the glass floor even more attractive for multi-purpose halls is that the LED lines can be adjusted for each sport at the touch of a button. “We want to revolutionise indoor sports with our product and make it more relevant in the long term. This also means that more money will flow into the industry through the glass floor and the new marketing opportunities,” Babinsky describes his big vision.
People across the pond have also taken notice: Representatives of the NBA have already expressed their interest. Of course, this would be a big hit for Babinsky and his company. And that’s not all: an introduction in futsal is also conceivable in the future. Babinsky says they are already in talks with FIFA, but at the same time assures: “The floor will remain indoor – we don’t want to compete with grass. For now, the focus is on basketball and the premiere on Friday.