Basketball fans who tune into the NCAA Tournament—which starts today—will see the work of a local sports flooring company during the Final Four.
Praters Flooring, which is located just over the state line in Georgia at Rossville's old Peerless Mill, designed the graphics for the floor that will be used for the last four games of the annual tournament.
"When I first started in 1990, basketball courts were pretty blah," John Prater, president of the flooring company, said Thursday. "They had no real logos on the courts. We got computerized in the early 1990s and started marketing oversized graphic logos in courts to make a statement."
Praters started out in the '90s doing floors for area schools and set itself apart by doing graphics, he said.
Then, Praters got an opportunity to start working with Connor Sport Court International, the official floor of the NCAA Final Four.
Connor makes the wooden panels, and then, Praters employees do the logo work.
"There is a whole separate niche in [portable] basketball courts," Prater said. "You take them up and down, so there can be a basketball one day and a tractor pull the next."
At the company's 70,000-square-foot facility in Peerless Mill, there is room to put down five basketball courts at one time, Prater said.
The company has 50 employees who have worked on an array of different courts that are seen practically every day during basketball season, Prater said.
The team worked on courts for the Brooklyn Nets, the University of Georgia, the University of Notre Dame and recently did the renovation for UTC's court, he said.
"There is a lot that is involved in producing these courts, and being able to do the Final Four floors is just tremendous," he said. "I sit back in awe of our employees who actually pull it off."
The New York Times has a story about NCAA branding that mentions Praters, and Prater said he will soon be authorized to release photos and a video of their work.
Click here to view a video of crews working on the floor.
See the floor
The Final Four floor is stopping in Chattanooga on its way to Atlanta's Georgia Dome, and the public is invited to celebrate 75 years of March Madness at UTC, according to a news release from UTC.
A team from Connor Sport Court International will transport the game floor from their manufacturing warehouse in Amasa, Mich., to the Georgia Dome, making four tour stops at different college campuses.
The local event is March 25 from 10 a.m. until noon on top of the Lupton Library parking deck. There will be a basketball shoot-off, photo opportunities and free merchandise.
Participants at the UTC event will also have the opportunity to sign the tour truck carrying the official Final Four floor.
“We look forward to bringing the tour to UTC and Dalton State College this year,” Ron Cerny, president and CEO of Connor Sport Court International, said in a prepared statement. “Our company enjoys putting on this tour because we love interacting with college basketball fans all over the country.”
Connor Sport Court International builds the portable floor for quick installation at the Final Four. The men's and women's courts are made out of hard maple.
A few weeks prior to the tournament, crews construct, inspect and then disassemble the floor at the Amasa plant before shipping it for painting at Praters.
From there, the floor is loaded up for the tour and delivered to the Georgia Dome.
Connor Sport Court International will also supply the court for the 2013 Women’s Final Four April 7-9, also according to the news release.
Updated @ 11:27 a.m. on 3/25/13 to add a link to a video of crews working on the floor after it became available.