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Floors for the Four: Championship teams play on Utah company's surfaces

Published: Thursday, July 30 2015 5:03 p.m. MDT

Memphis head coach John Calipari, second from right, leads his team through a drill. The NCAA floor was made by Salt Lake's Connor Sport Court International. (Matt York, Associated Press) Memphis head coach John Calipari, second from right, leads his team through a drill. The NCAA floor was made by Salt Lake's Connor Sport Court International. (Matt York, Associated Press)
Utah college basketball fans can take heart: Even though no local teams are participating in this weekend's Final Four action, a Wasatch Front manufacturer is responsible for making the hardwood floors that will see at least two teams' championship hoop dreams come true.
The courts being used for the men's basketball championships in San Antonio and the women's basketball championships in Tampa, Fla., are made by Connor Sport Court International Inc., headquartered in Salt Lake City.
"We're the official playing surface of the NCAA Final Four," said Connor Sport's marketing manager Jeff Morton. "We also do all the men's and women's regionals."
The company has also done the floors for the NCAA volleyball championships for the past 15 years, Morton said. The surfaces for those competitions are made of polypropylene, a plastic derivative, rather than hardwood.
"Those court systems provide 'lateral forgiveness' that allows the surface to move up and down as well as side to side," he said. The forgiving qualities of the surface offer "additional relief to athletes' joints and tendons, which has proven to reduce injuries to volleyball players."
Kevin Love (42) of the UCLA Bruins walks down the court during practice for the Final Four at the Alamodome in San Antonio. (Ronald Martinez, Getty Images) Kevin Love (42) of the UCLA Bruins walks down the court during practice for the Final Four at the Alamodome in San Antonio. (Ronald Martinez, Getty Images)
Connor Sport began making the courts for the men's Final Four in 2006, in Indianapolis, and also made the floor for last year's men's competition in Atlanta.
"We produce the floor in our mill in 4-by-8-foot panels that weigh about 180 pounds a piece," Morton said. "We then send it to our finish facility and put on all the logos and game lines."
The completed product is then shipped to the individual venue. A typical hardwood court costs about $100,000.
Morton said in 2004, Connor Hardwood Flooring merged with Sport Court to become Connor Sport Court International. Today, Connor Sport has revenues of about $70 million annually.
In addition to courts for professional teams, universities, colleges and high schools, the company also is the creator and provider of backyard game courts, under the Sport Court brand name.
Though the company is headquartered in Utah, Morton said the courts were constructed at Connor Sport's hardwood plant in Amasa, Mich.
"The reason we can't manufacture wood floors in Salt Lake is because it's a specific wood called northern hardwood maple," Morton said. "It has to be grown above the 38th parallel."
The weather in northern Michigan produces an especially hard wood that is resilient, which means "the floor has the ability to move and then go back to its original form," producing a durable, long-lasting playing surface, he said.
Connor Sport has built the home floors for the Miami Heat and the Atlanta Hawks of the National Basketball Association, in addition to 15 NBA practice facilities. At the collegiate level, the company has built the courts for the University of Utah, Brigham Young University and more than 50 other colleges nationwide.
The courts are constructed utilizing a QuickLock portable court system, making setup and breakdown relatively easy. Hardwood used in the courts is from a renewable resource, with the U.S. growing six times more hardwood than is harvested each year, the company said in a statement.
After the NCAA events are completed, Morton said the courts are refinished and sold to other universities or colleges. In the case of the championship courts, he said they are typically sold to the winner's school.
Two-time defending men's champ, the University of Florida, currently plays its home games on the same floor on which it won the 2006 NCAA title, Morton said. The floor from the 2007 title was sold to alumni to fund scholarships.


E-mail: jlee@desnews.com

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