Installing and maintaining basketball courts for the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments is a Herculean logistical and physical task in typical years. However, it became an unprecedented challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic this year for Connor Sports Flooring in Bensenville, Illinois. In the end, careful planning, teamwork, and robust communication made all the difference.
“This was significantly more challenging than past years, as a concentrated amount of work needed to be done in a limited amount of time, all compounded by constraints brought about by COVID-19,” says Jeff Krejsa, vice president of marketing and strategy for Connor Sports Flooring International. “The sheer scope, plus managing uncertainty, was something very new for us.”
After canceling the event in 2020, Krejsa and the team at Connor Sports Flooring had to adapt quickly to the NCAA’s decision to create a “bubble” for this year’s tournament, playing all games, both preliminary and rounds, at a single location – Indianapolis for the men’s tournament, and San Antonio for the women’s.
“We sent five of our courts to each city, but the bubble also meant that several practice courts needed to be put in at these locations,” explains Krejsa. “Coordination of having so many courts in a single place was a huge challenge. It’s the sheer logistics of getting the courts onto trucks, making sure they are on time, and that one court isn’t getting mixed up with another.
“Typically, the NCAA would provide us the graphics, but this year it was The Ohio Floor Company in Shreve, Ohio, who made the magic happen on the two Final Four floors.”
– Jeff Krejsa, vice president of marketing and strategy for Connor Sports Flooring International
Another challenge is that in the Indianapolis bubble, some Connor Sports Flooring floors had to go into locations that already had an existing basketball court. Krejsa says his team had to be extremely careful to ensure the quality, safety, and performance of the new courts, while at the same time, protecting the courts underneath.
“It’s 40,000-50,000 pounds of court that are being placed on top of an existing court,” explains Krejsa. “To disperse that weight, we put an extra layer of plywood and felt in between the existing floor and our own.”
2Due to the compressed nature of this year’s events, it also required that more Connor Sports Flooring staff needed to be present within the bubble. Usually, Connor Sports Flooring can lean on regional dealer partners in different areas for installation. This year, they did not have that luxury, forcing them to bring in more of their staff to ensure accurate installation.
“We had to manage our people going into these facilities carefully. Our small team had to adhere to NCAA protocols concerning testing,” says Krejsa. “It was a challenge, as it is an intense period, particularly in the beginning rounds, as courts are going in around the clock.”
Court graphics were another unique challenge for this year’s tournament.
Jeff Krejsa and the team at Connor Sports Flooring had to quickly adapt to the NCAA’s decision to create a “bubble” for this year’s tournament, playing all games, at a single location – Indianapolis for the men’s tournament, and San Antonio for the women’s.
“Typically, the NCAA would provide us the graphics, but this year it was The Ohio Floor Company in Shreve, Ohio, who made the magic happen on the two Final Four floors. There’s so much detail that goes into these floors, and they did a tremendous job pulling it off under stressful circumstances,” says Krejsa. “What you see on television, to get to that point, took so many people to make it happen. It’s an amazing thing to be a part of.”
After the installation was complete, Connor Sports Flooring staff remained on-site to act as technical supervisors for the entire length of the tournament should anything go wrong with the floors.
“It meant for some long days and weeks for our team, as well as quite a bit of isolation, as our staff was kept separate from coaches, staff, and players due to safety protocols,” states Krejsa. “If there were issues with the floors, the facility would have to be cleared before us being able to come in and make changes.”
Looking back at his team’s accomplishments this year, Krejsa credits some of their success on having very open communication lines.
“With so much potential for chaos, it is important to have clear communications. We could not afford to make assumptions. Every situation and environment is different, and every commercial client you work with is going to have unique needs,” notes Krejsa. “The word ‘listen’ is significant. Just like a residential wood floor can impact a family’s life in a very meaningful way, on the commercial side, it is similar, but just at a much larger scale, but in both cases, we must remember to listen.”