road to the Final Four or at least the floor starts
in Menominee, in rural northeastern Wisconsin.
The tiny town doesn't have a competitive college basketball
program. But the work there makes all the difference on which team
can call itself the nation's best.
Welcome to the 235,000-acre Menominee Indian Reservation, source
of the towering maple trees culled for this season's most-prized
And it's headed soon to AT&T Stadium for the NCAA men's
"People watch the game and that's our timber out there," said
Jim Kaquatosh, sales manager for Menominee Tribal Enterprises. "People
on the reservation are real proud they could be a part of it."
The portable court, which will be emblazoned with a logo depicting
the stadium's dome, takes a long journey before its Texas debut.
It's milled in Menominee, constructed in Michigan's Upper Peninsula,
finished in Idaho and then hauled to Arlington.
It all begins in snowy Wisconsin.
during the frigid winter months, the tribe's lumber company cuts
enough top quality maple for the floor. Trees have whiter wood during
the winter, when the sap is less visible.
Despite more than a century of logging, the reservation has
more trees than when the mill began. That's all thanks to sustainable
yield foresting practices, a part of Menominee lore.
Tribal Chief Oshkosh told the Menominee in the 1800s that if
they "take only the mature trees, the sick trees, and the trees
that have fallen
the trees will last forever." Heeding that
advice, Menominee Tribal Enterprises carefully selects which trees
to cut to ensure a steady supply of wood.
Connor Sport Court International, based in Salt Lake City, has
been the exclusive provider for the Final Four since 2006. It's
Connor that trusts the Menominee with the wood that eventually carries
the company's name.
"They are one of the premier foresters in the country," said
Lauren Gillian, marketing director at Connor Sports.
The NCAA has a multiyear agreement with Connor Sports to manufacture
and install the floor.
After the mill saws the trees, the planks are brought to the
Connor plant in Amasa population 280 in Michigan's
Upper Peninsula. Its 125 workers come from all over Iron County.
The boards, placed on top of wooden subflooring with a steel
tongue, are fashioned into interlocking panels. Like a puzzle, they
are numbered so they can be installed in the same order.
Connor's Amasa plant manufactures about 700 courts each year
for schools, gyms, colleges and the NBA.
North Texas' Final Four floor already has been built, its panels
stacked in the plant and awaiting a trip to one of Connor Sports'
finishing partners this year, United Services Inc. in Idaho
there will sand, seal, paint and finish the court.
Among the big jobs: affixing to center court the Final Four
logo a mainstay for the high-profile TV event.
It's a silver, black and blue design as befits the home
of the Dallas Cowboys marked by a sleek image of the domed
stadium. It came about after more than two months of talks among
Connor, the NCAA and the Cowboys.
"Each Final Four has its own identifier," Gillian said. "We
wanted to make sure that we incorporated the colors and the feel
of the city of Dallas."
Once the final touches are done, the floor will be taken apart
and loaded onto trucks for the trek to Arlington, where it will
be re-assembled by Connors Sports.
Before then, its gets a floor show tour, stopping at Klyde Warren
Park in Dallas, an athletic complex in Carrollton, TCU and the Fort
KEY DATES: The floor show
The Final Four floor tour will showcase the parcels
in a transport truck, include a replica piece for pictures, and set
up basketball hoops to shoot for prizes.
March 26: Noon to 2 p.m., Klyde Warren Park, Dallas.
March 26: 3-5 p.m., Integrated Athletic Development, Carrollton.
March 27: 11 a.m.-1 p.m., Stockyards Station, Fort Worth.
March 27: 2:30-5 p.m. at TCU, near Frog Fountain, Fort Worth.
March 28: Final delivery at AT&T Stadium, Arlington. Closed
to the public.
BY THE NUMBERS
Grade 1 maple
The highest-quality wood used for the NCAA courts
Minimum number of maple trees to manufacture the floor
The number of 4-by-7-foot wooden panels, fit into
a tongue-and-groove system
Final weight of the hardwood court
Approximate time it takes to piece the floor together
at the Final Four arena
SOURCE: Menominee Tribal Enterprises, Connor Sports