Sports Business

Wood flooring companies put bounce under ball: Hoops tourney signals competitive bidding season

March 28, 2005

With March Madness, the NBA playoff race and high school state tournaments reaching a feverish pitch, many Hoosiers are eyeing bouncing balls and hanging hoops.

But Kevin Price and his staff are more focused on the floor below.

Price's company has carved out a profitable niche supplying, painting, polishing and servicing the hardwood that keeps basketballs bouncing.

"I'm sure a lot of people just think of it as a floor," said Price, Indianapolis' regional sales manager for Cincinnati Floor Co. "But there's a lot more to it. Dealing with these floors is an art and a science."

Price and his staff-which includes 1996 Indiana Mr. Basketball Kevin Ault-hope to get a marketing bounce at this year's Women's Final Four in Indianapolis April 3-5.

While Cincinnati Floor will not provide the court the games are played on, it will install a court at the Indiana Convention Center for the Women's Basketball Coaches Association Conference held in conjunction with the Final Four. Michigan-based Horner Floor Co. is supplying the floor for the Women's Final Four.

"The WBCA attracts coaches of women's teams from every age level across the nation," Price said. "This is a great opportunity for us in terms of exposure and educating people about the floors we offer."

Cincinnati Floor is a dealer for Cincinnati-based Robbins Sports Surfaces. The companies once had common owners, and both are seen as pioneers in the hardwood floor industry.

The Robbins floor that Cincinnati Floor helped develop was used in three of the four NCAA men's regionals and will be used during the Final Four in St. Louis. The Robbins system is also used in 19 of 30 NBA arenas.

Former Indiana University basketball star Eric Anderson knows the importance of a quality hardwood. After playing more than two decades of competitive basketball, including a stint with the New York Knicks, the new athletic director of Blessed Theodore Guerin High School in Hamilton County studied many alternatives before choosing Cincinnati Floor to install a hardwood gym floor for the school.

"We wanted a floor that was going to be as joint-friendly as possible," Anderson said. "Our kids spend a lot of time on this floor, and if you have them getting hurt, that really puts you in a tough position."

Hardwood isn't cheap, but Anderson thinks the cost was worth it.

With quality hardwood costing $8 to $12 per square foot, most floors, including the court and surrounding area, cost $75,000 to $200,000. Most floors have three levels of wood and an underlying rubber foundation.

While hardwood is in growing demand across the Midwest, Indiana is way ahead of the curve, said Bruce Heldt, regional sales manager of Indianapolis-based Kiefer Sports Inc., which installs the Connor Sports Flooring hardwood surface manufactured in Chicago.

"I'm glad my territory includes Indiana," Heldt said. "In Indiana, even elementary schools put in very nice hardwood gymnasium floors and most high schools put in college-level floors."

As hoops tournaments reach a crescendo, the bidding season for companies like Cincinnati Floor and Kiefer heats up.

Cincinnati Floor was founded in 1894 and located a regional office in Indianapolis in 1960. The company has 80 employees at its Cincinnati headquarters and three regional offices, with 23 employees in Indianapolis.

Cincinnati Floor deals in several kinds of flooring, but its bedrock has always been hardwood. Currently, the company is completing projects at the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art.

Kiefer's offerings are a bit more diversified, with a growing percentage of its revenue coming from the new-age artificial football turf.

Eighty percent of Cincinnati Floor's business comes from athletic flooring, and more than 65 percent of that is hardwood.

Cincinnati Floor's hardwood clients include the Indiana Pacers, IU, Butler University, the University of Kentucky, the University of Louisville and the University of Cincinnati. Kiefer installed the floor at Purdue University.


Kevin Price of Cincinnati Floor Co. hopes to score a marketing coup during the Women's Final Four in Indianapolis. His company installs courts at many NCAA schools.
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