The NCAA Final Four championship games are moments away, and with each annual basketball tournament comes not only waves of momentous ups and downs, big upsets and buzzer-beater wins, but also a new batch of official court floors.
Connor Sports, a Gerflor company, has been the Official Court Supplier of the NCAA Final Four since 2006. With just 20 people, the experienced team was able to get the high-profile 2019 courts impressively installed in just a matter of hours.
Each year, Connor Sports works directly with the NCAA on the design of the March Madness and Final Four courts. The 2019 tournament collaboration included designs for the men’s Final Four court, the women’s Final Four court and eight regional courts for the earlier rounds of March Madness.
“Given the logistic complexity and scale of March Madness, Connor Sports is one of only a few companies that can support all men’s and women’s regional and Final Four games as the official court,” says Brian Klein, sport and education marketing director for Connor Sports.
“NCAA was confident we could handle the demanding request given our existing relationship with the NCAA through another of Gerflor’s brands, Sport Court, which has been the official court of the NCAA volleyball championships for over 25 years,” he continues.
Connor Sports began preparing the Final Four several months in advance to ensure proper time for sourcing, manufacturing, finishing and logistics planning. “Our expertise with high-profile events, including the Final Four, FIBA World Cup and the Olympics, is in part the reason we are equipped to handle the demands of the quick turn-around time. Our technical team oversees a group of 15-20 personnel with the installation and tear-down every year.”
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Nearly 130,000 square feet of courts are installed throughout the March Madness tournament. The men’s Final Four courts alone are 9,800 square feet – larger than the average high school gym and standard basketball court. They run 70-feet by 140-feet and are comprised of 397 northern maple hardwood QuickLock panels that weight 188 pounds each. Klein explains that the panels are transported to the arena and assembled onsite.
This year’s designated men’s Final Four host is Minneapolis’ iconic U.S. Bank Stadium – it will be the fourth year the city has hosted the tournament. The women’s Final Four takes place at Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL.
Using only about 20 personnel, the 2019 court was fully installed in just under four hours one week before the first Final Four game takes place April 5, and it will remain installed through the final game on Monday, April 8.
To ensure the portable QuickLock flooring system provides athletic performance and comfort characteristics similar to other fixed hardwood systems, Klein states that Connor Sports uses premium materials and components with extremely high-quality standards, each of which are preconditioned for optimal wood moisture content and stability.
Materials are locally sourced, and include MFMA first grade hardwood maple strips, dimensioned softwood sleepers, smooth-sanded plywood sheets, cold-rolled steel tongues, high-impact polypropylene groove receivers and premium finishing materials.
Klein notes that after the final game, the Connor Sports team will work quickly to remove the court allowing the U.S. Bank Stadium to return to its regular operations. He also adds that each year the school that wins the tournament has the opportunity to purchase the court. “It is often used to celebrate the win with alumni and/or current students. For example, Villanova recently installed the center logo from the 2016 Championship court into their renovated student pavilion.”
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Considering Connor Sports’ timely logistics with manufacturing, installing and removing of the March Madness and Final Four floors each year, it makes sense that the NCAA continues to partner with the company for the challenging process.
“It is an honor that Connor Sports, a Gerflor company, is the official court supplier for such a popular and well-known event,” says Klein. “It is a project that many people on the team are involved with, and it is rewarding to see our work displayed at such a high-profile event that all of our friends, family and colleagues watch each year.”
Now, that sounds like a slam-dunk collaboration to me.
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