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Sportexe: Bringing Arena Football to You

by Randy Snow

Originally posted on ArenaFan.com, Monday, October 20, 2008

When Jim Foster came up with the game of Arena Football back in 1981, he envisioned a unique game played on a unique indoor field. After 22 seasons, the game continues to attract new fans every year. But just who is in charge of making all the unique equipment used by the AFL such as the rebound nets? The answer might surprise you.

The name of the company is Sportexe, and their headquarters is in Irving, Texas. The company, which has been around since 1989, makes artificial playing fields for NFL, college and high school football stadiums. Most notably, Sportexe fields are installed in the New Orleans Superdome and at M&T Bank Stadium, the home of the NFL Baltimore Ravens. The San Francisco 49ers and Buffalo Bills have Sportexe fields installed in their practice facilities.

Earlier this year, Sportexe was awarded a contract to provide two practice field surfaces for the NFL New York Jets, one indoors and one outdoors. The company actually makes seven different types of playing surfaces to fit the needs of their customers.

The company is also a supplier of artificial playing fields for the National Lacrosse League.

But when it comes to Arena Football items, only one of their offices handles all the orders for all the products that are not full sized, outdoor fields. It is located in the small town of Fonthill, Canada, just west of Niagara Falls in the Province of Ontario.

Doug Pullin is the AFL Project Manager for Sportexe. His office in Canada employs about eight people out of the 100 total employees that work for the company. Sportexe makes all but one of the components of the game used by the Arena Football League as well as for its developmental league, arenafootball2, also known as af2. They make the dasher board padding, the turf and the netting for the rebound nets. The nets are made in Canada while the turf is manufactured and assembled at a plant in Calhoun, Georgia. The sideline dasher boards are made at another facility in South Carolina.

The only thing that Sportexe does not make is the metal frames for the rebound nets. Those are made in Colorado by another company called Concert Concepts Production Services Inc. The rebound net frames are similar to the hardware used by arenas and stadiums to hold lighting and other stage effects for concerts.

“Anything that deviates from a full-sized outdoor football, soccer or lacrosse field comes to this office (in Canada),” Pullin said. “If you want to do your basement or a backyard putting green, all that stuff runs through this office.”

When it comes to being the first to know about what the future holds in regards to expansion in the AFL, Pullin would be on the front line. Orders for new AFL fields and other equipment come in around Thanksgiving, so things get pretty busy in Fonthill after that. But why Canada?

“We’ve just always been here (in Canada) because the old ownership group all lived around here,” said Pullin, a native of Canada. “We’re the kind of business where we don’t need to be on the beaten path.”

As you can see, it take a lot of people in several locations throughout the U.S. and Canada to produce all of the elements of an Arena Football playing field. Keep that in mind the next time you are attending a game.

Sportexe has been the exclusive provider of field equipment for the AFL since 2000 and for the af2 since 1999. The company’s biggest competitor in the synthetic playing field business is Field Turf.

Sportexe also sponsors several Coach of the Year awards. This year’s winner in the AFL was Mike Wilpolt of the Cleveland Gladiators. The af2 Coach of the Year was Derek Stingley, the head coach of the South Georgia Wildcats.

In 2008, there were a total of 46 Arena Football teams, 17 AFL teams and 29 af2 teams. There has already been one new af2 team announced for 2009, the Milwaukee Iron, and another coming in 2010 to Toledo, Ohio. With more teams sure to come each year through expansion in both leagues, the folks at Sportexe will be producing Arena Football products for many years to come.






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