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Michigan is going to the Final Floor

I want to make one thing clear. No matter what happened to MSU and U-M, Michigan will be going to the NCAA Final Four basketball championship. Let me clarify. Michigan is on the final FLOOR.

When the National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball championships are played in the Mercedes Benz Superdome on March 31 and April 2, the teams that make the Final Four will play on a sleek hardwood floor that started taking shape last September in the tiny town of Amasa (population 250) in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Amasa is home to a complex of four buildings housing one of the manufacturing operations of Connor Sport Court International. Connor, founded in 1872, is the leading manufacturer of hardwood courts in the U.S. The NCAA Final Four courts for both men and women are manufactured from hard maple Connor Sport Court purchased as rough lumber. Connor buys from about 60 different sawmills, most of them in Michigan and Wisconsin.

The Connor plant is the largest full time employer in Iron County. “We draw 70 per cent of our 125 employees from the towns of Iron River and Crystal Falls,” says Conrad Stromberg, manager of the plant and a Connor employee for the past 23 years.

In addition to the NCAA Final Four courts, Connor’s Amasa plant also manufactures about 750 playing courts every year for schools, gymnasiums, colleges and NBA teams.

“We are very proud of the portable courts we build for the NCAA and the NBA teams,” said Stromberg, citing as an example the unique parquet hardwood portable floor the company built for the Boston Celtics.

The court’s journey to New Orleans is called The Connor Sport Court Final Four Floor Tour transported by UPS, thanks to a partnership between Connor Sport Court and UPS. This is the first year in the five year history of the court tour that Connor Sport Court has partnered with another company.

A documentary team from CBS Television is filming the tour, from construction of the court in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to the Final Four play in New Orleans.

“It’s a pleasure to partner with the eminent UPS brand on our tour,” said Ron Cerny, president and CEO of Connor Sport Court. “We are the foremost experts in building sports surfaces, and they are the foremost experts in transportation and delivery of items large and small. It’s a great pairing.”

You can watch the floor being assembled on YouTube.

David G. Smith, production manager at Amasa, explains how the floor is built.

Last September the rough lumber arrived at the Connor plant. First it is cut to a width size of 2 and ¼ inches then it’s planed and defects are cut out of the wood. After that, it runs through a side-matcher, 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 first, second and third according to Maple Floor Manufacturing Association (MFMA).

“The NCAA gets only first grade maple,” says Smith.

The courts then go into a separate building where it is “portabilized,” assembled into sections measuring 48 ¼ inches by 96 and 1/8 inches. The total size of each court, once assembled, 60’ x 120’, an area of 7,200 square feet.

One of the most critical elements is the subflooring, a patented Connor structure that goes under the maple surface and provides just the right amount of resiliency and shock absorption to assure good performance and player safety.

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. It’s then disassembled and sent to one of the company’s finishing facilities. For the men’s’ Final Four Court, its Ohio Floor Co. in Apple Creek, Ohio.

Just a quick note. The Amasa plant is also green. It’s been audited and designated a “Zero Waste Company.” The plant uses sawdust to fire boilers and to heat and generate steam. Any remaining waste is made into “wood flour,” which is used for composite decking. In addition, maple hardwood used in the courts is from a renewable resource. The US grows six times more hardwood than is harvested each year.

Connor Sport Court also supplies the court for the 2012 Women’s Final Four, which will take place April 1 and 2 at the Pepsi Center in Denver.

Now all this said as a Michigan State grad I have to add GO GREEN!!


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