NCAA 3-point line change could benefit one Memphis business

ERIC SMITH | The Daily News

A recent rule change by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) will benefit sharp-shooting basketball players, but it also could be a boon for Sports Floors Inc., a Memphis business owned by Bruce Gleneck.

The NCAA approved a rule late last month extending the 3-point line for men’s basketball beginning with the 2008-2009 season. That means next summer college programs will be required to have the new arc painted onto their courts.

The line will be 20 feet, 9 inches from the hoop, an increase of one foot from the previous distance. The women’s line will remain the same, at 19-9.

The line change – the first in 22 years since the NCAA adopted the 3-point shot in 1986-1987 – will give Sports Floors a chance to spread the word about its athletic-court installation, repair and maintenance services.

“It’s not going to be a huge moneymaker, because to paint those lines probably won’t cost us $500 to do it, but it may give us an opportunity to let people know we’re on top of our game,” Gleneck said. “Also, it will allow us to do a screen and recoat (on the courts), which does get us some extra business.”

A Business in the Know

Gleneck said his company is putting together a sales sheet to distribute to colleges and universities of all sizes in Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi, educating athletic departments about the rule change.

For example, one stipulation of the rule says the men’s 3-point line must be painted a different color than the existing women’s line, so Gleneck wants to prevent colleges from allowing their in-house maintenance staffs from making a costly error such as using the same color.

“I’m not sure they would know that, and it’s something we want to inform them of because we don’t want them to put black lines down twice and have it be wrong,” Gleneck said. “We can help get these guys into compliance. They need people like us, people that know what’s going on.”

Sports Floors has known what’s going on with athletic courts for 13 years. Gleneck, who formerly worked as a sales rep of gymnasium floor finishing products, founded the company in 1994 with a colleague who had been building basketball floors.

“It was kind of a fluke,” Gleneck said. “Together we had $10,000. We started off just screening, recoating and resanding floors. The business continued to get bigger and bigger and bigger.”

When his partner retired a few years later, Gleneck took over as president. And Sports Floors grew from $400,000 a year in sales to $5 million last year.

Sports Floors sells, installs and maintains everything from racquetball courts to jogging tracks, from aerobic floors to weight-room floors, but basketball courts remain the company’s bread and butter.

Selling the LeBron model

Sports Floors installs about 50 basketball courts per year, plus it handles standard maintenance services, such as recoating or refinishing, for numerous others. The company is a distributor for Arlington Heights, Ill.-based Connor Floor.

A basketball floor costs an average of $75,000, depending on the quality of the floor. Gleneck said court surfaces range from $9 a square foot to $13 a square foot; the cost goes up based on factors such as how well a ball bounces off the floor and how well the floor absorbs shock.

Sports Floors’ Binghampton office has a large showroom in the back with sample floors on which potential buyers can jump and bounce a basketball to see how it feels and looks.

Gleneck has followed the recent trend of private schools opening new campuses in the suburbs. With those new classroom buildings comes a need for multiple athletic courts. He said he knows getting the decision-maker from the school – or church or rec center, as the case might be -into the showroom makes it easier to see what they’re getting.

“Once we find out that there’s a new school going up, we get in touch with them and try to show them their options,” he said. “We tell them we sell 30 different kinds of basketball courts, let us try to narrow it down to two or three, something that will reach inside their budget and, depending on what they’re doing on the floor, will meet their needs.”

“We can help get (NCAA programs) into compliance. They need people like us, people that know what’s going on.”
-Bruce Gleneck
Owner, Sports Floors Inc.

Of course, Gleneck also likes to use a hoops analogy when talking up the benefits of a high-quality court.

“I equate it to buying basketball shoes,” he said. “It’s like buying a Chuck Taylor canvas basketball shoe. We can all go to the store and find those, but is that what you want for your basketball team? Or would you rather have the brand new LeBron James basketball shoe? Let’s talk about why the LeBron James shoes are so much better.”

Growth Mode

Sports Floors employs between 11 and 25 people depending on the season, plus a host of subcontractors who handle duties such as floor installation and sanding.

Gleneck is the local sales rep, and he has others stationed in Jackson, Tenn., Conway, Ark., and Meridian, Miss. He hopes to have a rep in Louisiana soon.

The company is poised to move into its new digs later this year. Gleneck said Sports Floors is breaking ground on a new headquarters off Whitten Road this summer. The new facility will be 8,000 square feet, more than twice the space of the company’s current home.

And with the NCAA rule change requiring all colleges to bring a company like Sports Floors on board next summer to paint the new 3-point line, Gleneck hopes that will spark even more growth.

“You never know what could come of it,” he said.