SALT LAKE CITY, UT
- As the NCAA playoffs commence, one guaranteed winner is Connor Sports Flooring, each year taking to the court to provide the official playing surfaces of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Final Four men's and women's playoffs.
Headquartered in Salt Lake City and with a second wood manufacturing facility in Amasa, MI, Connor has an elaborate pre-game ritual that lasts for weeks - producing the portable courts for placement in the final game venues. For the 2011 Final Four that is April 2 and 4 in Houston for the Men's; April 3 and 5 in Houston for the Women's.
Connor Sports Flooring maple floors include a cushioning substructure and surface finished by installers down to the game-site logos and markings.
Connor, founded in 1872 and with 125 employees in its Amasa, MI plant, is also the leading manufacturer of hardwood courts in the U.S., handling flooring for other sports both indoor and out. In addition to the NCAA Final Four courts, Connorâs Amasa plant also manufactures about 750 playing courts every year for schools, gymnasiums, colleges and for 14 NBA teams.
One recent project Connor Sports Flooring project was the basketball court at the new Matthew Knight Arena on the University of Oregon campus, home of the Ducksâ athletic teams. The floor (left and at bottom), fabricated with 100 percent FSC certified, Northern hardwood maple from Timber Products Company, had its national debut in January. It features a graphic design with a view from a forest floor looking up through the tree canopy toward the sky.
For last year's 2010 NCAA Final Four courts for both men and women, Connor purchased maple from Timber Products Company location in Munising, MI - 140 miles north. For its other projects, Connor buys from about 60 different sawmills, most of them in Michigan and Wisconsin.
| Video shows maple flooring installation
David G. Smith, production manager at Amasa, outlined the steps for processing the rough cut maple into flooring after its September arrival at the Connor plant.
"First it is cut to a width size of 2 and 1/2 inches,â Smith said. It is then planed and defects are cut out of the wood. After that, it runs through a sidematcher, which planes it down and cuts the tongue and groove on each side of the strip.
It then goes to the end-matcher which makes a tongue and groove on the end of each strip. It is graded by quality: first, second and third according to Maple Floor Manufacturers Association (MFMA) standards.
âThe NCAA gets only first grade maple,â says Smith. The courts then go into a separate building where it is âportablized,â so it can be assembled on site, from sections measuring 48 1/2 inches by 96 and 1/8 inches. The patented Connor substructure goes under the maple surface for resiliency and shock absorption.
Once each portable section is complete, it is placed in a stack of 12 under stringently controlled temperature and humidity conditions. A few weeks before the Final Four tournaments, the floor is assembled and inspected at the Amasa plant. The floor is then disassembled and sent to one of the companyâs accredited flooring finishers and installers. For the 2010 NCAA Final Four maple floors it was J.T. Flooring in Milwaukee.
The portable floorsâsuch as those used in the Final Fourâlet venues quickly convert the stadium from one sport to another, for example basketball to hockey.
Connor merged in 2005 with a competitor, Sport Court, which operates from a state-of-the-art 90,000 square foot floor manufacturing plant with 70,000 square foot advanced distribution center in Salt Lake City. The two formed Connor Sport Court International, Inc. (CSCI).
Connor says its floors are ISO-certified and DIN and STEM tested, and it is a charter member of the Maple Flooring Manufacturerâs Association (MFMA) and the first member of that group to be certified by the Rainforest Alliance.
In addition to being the official surface of the NCAA Final Four, Connor partnerships include the National Basketball Association (NBA); Federation of International Basketball Associations;and the International Badminton Federation.
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