All on the floor: Ohio company center stage at Big Dance

HOLMESVILLE, Ohio — It’s not every day a floor gets its own documentary or goes traveling around the country on a week-long tour. But, then again, there aren’t many floors in the world that get the kind of exposure this one is about to receive.

For the folks at the Ohio Floor Co. in the little town of Holmesville, this project is a really big deal. “It has been the most complicated floor we’ve ever worked on,” said Jason Irias, of Fredericksburg, the job’s site supervisor, “but it’s been the most fun, too. All of the hype is pretty big. For us to be able to do this is quite an accomplishment.”

The hype is pretty big. After all, the floor will be seen by millions of television viewers nationwide as it meets the feet of the four top-tier college teams in the country. This is the NCAA Final Four floor.

History

Back when Ohio Floor Co.’s roots were established in the 1960s as Bear Floor Sanding, the company mainly focused on two things: installing residential hardwood and gymnasium floors.

When Steve Yoder bought the business in 1983, renaming it Mid-Ohio Hardwood Floors, he continued to grow and expand the gym-floor tradition until, as the Ohio Floor Co. (OFC), they began creating impressive permanent floor projects for Connor Sports Flooring, the leading manufacturer of maple hardwood courts and synthetic sports flooring in the U.S.

After a few years, Connor approached OFC about portable floors, hardwood creations with elaborate logos that can be assembled and disassembled for sporting events in multi-use facilities and arenas across the country.

Kevin Miller, OFC’s vice president, said they were a little nervous about the prospect. They weren’t sure they were ready to tackle such a daunting task.

“When Connor asked us to be a portable floor finisher, we thought it would be too much,” Miller said. “But through their persistence, we eventually decided to try a couple to get our feet wet.”

First floor

That first floor, destined for the Rushmore Civic Center in Rapid City , S.D., was shipped to OFC in crates as unfinished hardwood. The biggest challenge, Miller said, was piecing more than 200 4-by-8 foot sections together. But once they’d tackled the enormous wooden jigsaw puzzle, they found it was like any other finishing job, with the added convenience of being able to work in their own warehouse in Apple Creek.

That was six years ago. Now, the Ohio Floor Co. is proud to be one of only three finishers creating sports floors in partnership with Connor.

Other projects

They’ve finished dozens of notable projects, from the NCAA play-in games in Dayton to the NCAA Women’s Final Four at the Alamodome in San-Antonio.

In 2011, OFC was chosen to complete the Women’s NBA floor at Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun Arena.

Last March, when it came time to choose the finisher for the NCAA Final Four floor, with its multiple logos and challenging color detail, Connor Sports Flooring chose the Ohio Floor Co. “I was excited about it,” Irias said, “The design was a little complicated, but the people on our team are good, so I knew we could pull it off.”

The floor is made from MFMA Northern Hardwood Maple to assure the very highest quality possible, and 255 panels were shipped from Connor’s plant in Amasa, Mich., to OFC’s Apple Creek warehouse where it was assembled and sanded in preparation for applying the NCAA’s graphics.

Much of the design required hand-painting, including the large center logo, three smaller ones, and a 60-foot border area with a gradient from lime green to black. That’s where artist Mark Bolitho, of Mark Signs and Ken Posey, both of Wilmot, came in.

“We put a lot of thought and preparation into it, and more than 30 hours of hand-painting,” said Bolitho.

“At one point, we were using about 20 different colors, 40 pans and 40 rollers, just for the border.”

After the lines and graphics were carefully painted and the finishing was complete, the floor was allowed to cure, then disassembled and stacked. When it leaves the warehouse, it will make the college rounds where an 8-by-8 foot replica featuring the center logo will be shown off.

TV

After that, the floor will be ready for its starring role on national television at the Superdome in New Orleans, including an hour-long CBS College Sports documentary specifically on the Final Four floor, from the felling of the trees to the moment the players run out on the court, shot largely on-site at the Ohio Floor Co. The documentary will air during the Final Four games.

“All of the graphics turned out really well,” Irias said. “It looks great in person, so it should look excellent on TV.”

When the Big Dance comes to a close, the Final Four floor will be offered to the tournament champion, who might play on it on their home court or have it cut into pieces and sold as part of NCAA history.

If they buy the floor as-is, it will once again be shipped to OFC for sanding and finishing, in accordance with NCAA rules, before installation in its new home.

While the Ohio Floor Co. finishes eight to 10 portable floors per year, they still continue cleaning, refinishing and installing flooring of all kinds, including tile, wood and synthetic flooring for both commercial and residential properties, just as they’ve done for the past 24 years.

NBA?

Kevin Miller said, as one of Connor’s three floor finishers, they hope to become more involved in NCAA projects as they prepare to celebrate their 75th anniversary in 2013. Irias is hoping they’ll also have an opportunity to work on NBA floors.

“I think Connor knows we’re capable,” Irias said. “I believe they have a lot of trust in us. If the Cavaliers need a new floor next year, I would hope they’d offer the project to us, and I’m sure we’d take it.”

Miller said Connor’s relationship with the Ohio Floor Co. has been a natural progression born out of dedication to doing top-quality work. They’re thrilled to have the opportunity to be trusted with such an honor.

“We’re humbled by it as well,” said Miller. “We believe a project like this is a reflection on the community we’re from and the work ethic emphasized here.”

For more information on the Ohio Floor Co., visit http://www.ohiofloor.com.

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