Monday, March 26, 2018

My Town and March Madness

The not-so-thriving megalopolis of Amasa, Michigan (where I get my mail) isn’t known for much, but if you are a March Madness fan, you should learn its name and why it’s an important place for the tournaments.

Why, you ask?

From Connor Sports website
Because the basketball game you are enjoying is being played on a floor most likely manufactured in Amasa by Connor Sports. A few years back, the court may have even contained wood from a tree that grew on my property.

Many of you know that my official home is located deep in the woods, fifteen miles north of Amasa. The upcoming Seamus McCree novel, Empty Promises, is set in that locale. My property contains a mixture of maple, birch, hickory, oak, aspen, tamarack, and various conifers. The woods up by us are working woods—much of it is harvested sustainably, although some areas are clearcut. The logging industry plays its part in Empty Promises.

A few years back I selectively cut some hardwoods to enhance the long-term viability of my forest. Most of the wood went to make good-quality magazine paper, but a few sticks (100” logs) went to the Connor Sports mill. Someone, somewhere, may have bounced a basketball off my sugar maple.

The process Connor Sports uses to make a basketball floor is fascinating (and if you’re interested, read on). The “sticks “ are stored in a landing area until they are needed, at which point they are stripped of bark, and a rip saw slices them into boards of specified lengths. Those boards are planed to be exactly 25/32” thick. Any blemishes are cut out (only the whitest of the white wood is used for basketball floors), and after being kiln-dried, the remaining stock is put through machines that convert it to tongue and groove along both its long sides and short ends.

The boards are matched to construct 4’ x 7’ pallets using a staggered brick pattern so two boards don’t end at the same spot. This provides a consistent bounce. The panels also interlock and eventually create a court that, in the case of the men’s Final Four, will be 70’ x 140’ (9,800 sq. ft.). After assembly, they are seal-coated to protect the maple, then the court markings and logos are painted on, and it is seal-coated again.

Board curing over winter to create my hardwood floor

After curing, the court is broken back into pallets and shipped to the location for reassembly. These courts are portable (the typical gym floor is permanently installed), and can be placed over temporary stages built in football stadiums or even over ice rinks! Connor Sports employees supervise the onsite court construction and, in the case of the NCAA tournament, remain on-site throughout the games in case any adjustments are needed.

Once the final whistle blows, championship courts are offered for sale to the winning teams. Sometimes they buy them and install them on campus. Other universities have bought them and sold souvenir pieces to their fans. If the winning team doesn’t buy the court, they are offered for sale to the market.

Seamus played soccer, not basketball, but that won’t stop him from watching the tournament and taking vicarious pleasure in knowing the courts were manufactured in his neck of the woods. And now, you too can ooh and ahh over the court and maybe even win a bet with your friends about where that court came from!

A version of this blog first appeared on Writers Who Kill 3/25/18


  1. Cool post, Jim! We're Syracuse fans, and March Madness helps us get through the long winter. I'll pass along your post to other fans who will be interested in the playing surface. Thanks ! Kate, writing as c. t. collier

  2. Kate -- I always said March was the cruelest month in Upstate New York. It would give you a little glimpse of spring and then slam you with more winter.