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Project Spotlight: The Carrier Classic

It's not very often the venue for a sports event is so unusual that it gets as much, if not more, attention than the game being played on it. But on November 11, the U.S. was captivated by an event known as the Carrier Classic: a college basketball game played on the deck of an aircraft carrier.

The venue was the U.S.S. Carl Vinson, the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier off of whose deck Osama bin Laden was buried at sea. The game, held Veterans Day, saw Michigan State University's Spartans pitted against University of North Carolina's Tarheels -- a rematch of the 2009 NCAA National Championship, for those who recall. The game ended in a 67-55 victory for UNC, witnessed by U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, as well as 7,000 military personnel and -- according to ESPN, 3.86 million viewers, making it the most watched college basketball game since North Carolina faced Duke in March 2006.

Something ASBA members might not know? Connor Sports Flooring, an ASBA member, was involved in the effort to pull it all together, and to make it possible to put a regulation surface on the ship's deck.

According to Gary Gray, Portables Manager at Connor, Connor worked with one of its dealers, McWill Sports Surfaces in Los Angeles, who got the contract to supply the flooring for the event. After much back-and-forth discussion as to whether a floor should be purchased or rented for the event, Connor and McWill settled on using the rental floor left over from the NCAA basketball tournament when it was held in Anaheim, California the previous March. The floor was first-grade northern hard maple.

"The floor was sanded down and finished, and then logos were put down with stickers on the baselines," noted Gray.

The court was regulation size, said Gray, "but the one thing special about this install was the fact that you were working on the deck of the ship, and it had lights that were raised about an inch and a half above the tarmac. We put about two inches of high-density foam to create a level surface, and were able to cut away to fit it around the lights of the aircraft carrier."

The only other unexpected aspect of the event was the weather. Once the surface was installed, personnel tarped it to protect it from rain.

"We installed it on Tuesday, November 8," recalls Gray, "and everyone was nervous because there was a 60% chance of rain on Friday. Our contingency plan was to put another floor below -- under the deck is the hangar, and there's almost the same amount of space that there is on top. We watched the forecast, and the weather started changing for the better . The chance of rain went to about 10% and we were able to have confidence we could use the deck."

The game went past being a success, and could safely be called a phenomenon. Gray says that Connor, which has worked to place flooring in a wide array of unique venues, was very happy with the way all aspects of the event turned out.

"I've been able to do so many projects, but this is definitely the most unique we've ever done. Obviously, the Final Four is very special to us as well, but in terms of everything that went into this, it was the most special event."

Count on seeing another Carrier Classic next year, he adds.

"It was a great success and I think they do plan on doing it again every year."

2012 American Sports Builders Association 

8480 Baltimore National Pike #307 Ellicott City, MD 21043 410-730-9595

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