English
English
Español
Français

UP TO THE MINUTE

By Jonny Suchor. Learn more about AkzoNobel’s 2024 Color of ...
By Evelyn Witterholt. Learn how Central Coating Company took home ...
Read More
Pli-Dek - Sidebar - Only the Best - June
Contractor Outlook - Sponsored by SRS
Western Colloid - Sidebar Ad - FAAR Best Practices (CCS)
Instant Roofer - Sidebar Ad - Embed Calculator
Uniflex - Sidebar - Sales Reps
GCMC-Podcast-WinTraining-Sidebar-2
CoatingsCoffeeShop
English
English
Español
Français

Coating Courts with Innovation - PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Coating Courts with Innovation - PODCAST TRANSCRIPT
June 9, 2024 at 12:00 p.m.

Editor's note: The following is the transcript of a live interview with Tom Magner from California Sports Surfaces. You can read the interview below, listen to the podcast or watch the video.

Intro: Welcome to Coatings Cast, the ultimate podcast dedicated to the science, art and innovation of liquid and fluid applied roofing, coatings for surfaces and waterproofing. It's time to roll up our sleeves, put on our lab coats and dive headfirst into the world of liquid protection that keeps your roofs and surfaces in prime condition. The future is here and it's liquid, so don't miss out. This is Coatings Cast where every drop counts in the world of roof and service protection.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Hello and welcome to Coatings Cast from Coatings Coffee Shop. My name is Heidi Ellsworth and we are here today for this podcast with a first. This is our first esteemed guest who is going to be on talking about sports surfacing. So there's more than just the six sides of the building. There is sports surfacing that's so important. It's a whole industry in itself, and it's part of Coating's Coffee Shop. So we are so excited today to welcome Tom Magner with California Sports Surfaces. Hello, Tom.

Tom Magner: Good morning. How are you today?

Heidi J Ellsworth: I am great. I'm so excited to visit with you today and learn more about sports surfacing. It seems to me, a little glamorous.

Tom Magner: It sounds fun.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Yeah.

Tom Magner: It's one of those things that you meet someone at a party and they say, "Well, what do you do?" And I say, "Well, we do sports surfacing." And you try to explain it to people and they say, "I never realized anyone did that, but that sounds fun." And it's really true.

Heidi J Ellsworth: I love that. I love it. Well, before we dive in, because I'm really excited to learn about all of this, let's start with some introductions. So if you could introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your company and what you do.

Tom Magner: All right, great. Well, first of all, my name's Tom Magner. I'm the director of product management for sports services at a larger company by the name of the ICP Group. And California Sports Services is our brand. We've got a few different brands underneath that umbrella, but we basically provide surfacing to tennis courts, pickle ball courts, running tracks, anything you can play on essentially. What's exciting about us and what I'm most proud of is that we are not just the first to do this podcast, but we were the first of our kind.

It was invented in the early fifties. It was the first product specifically intended to go horizontally over an athletic court. But then beyond that, we did a number of firsts. We were the first ones to have a primer specifically for it. First one to invent a line paint specifically for athletic courts, and so on and so forth, and including some of the technologies we continue to work on today. So it's fun and I've been here a long time. I've been here since 1998 and I don't know anything else. It's a fun place to work.

Heidi J Ellsworth: I love it. That says a lot right there. 1998.

Tom Magner: Yep.

Heidi J Ellsworth: That's pretty exciting. And what is your role and what are you doing right now with California Sports Surfaces?

Tom Magner: So, I'm the product manager, essentially global product manager because we do export from the US into 54 countries. And we have locations in the UK and in Australia. Work with them directly. I try to figure out what's the next big thing? Where do you need to be positioned? What products, what colors, what opportunities, what tournaments? Things like that that we want to be involved in. So I've got my fingers into everything. I think of myself as the little Dutch boy. I just try to stop the leagues before they come.

Heidi J Ellsworth: I love it. Well, and I love that. What colors do we need to do? What are some of the things that are helping or hindering athletes where you can solve that problem? And that's really the exciting part of a product when you have that kind of product that can solve problems and make things better. I come from a family of athletes. I'm not one myself, but I know a lot of people. A lot of track in our family. And when I really think about what you just said with the surfacing, how do you grip? How do you run? What do you do? The lines. How important all that is and the fact that your company, California Sports Services, started it all. That's really exciting.

Tom Magner: It really is. It's exciting and it's a fun pedigree to be part of. Back in 1964, this was still a fledgling industry and we hosted a conference of installers, of contractor builders and there were maybe 20 people there. It was in Baltimore, Maryland, and those people agreed to form an industry organization, which eventually morphed into what today is the American Sports Builders Association. And I think there's over 700 members at this point, and they do all kinds of things like turf and synthetic flooring, wood flooring, all kinds of different things, even beyond just the courts that we started with.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Yeah, wow. Everyone's going to think a little bit different next time they go out on that pickle ball or tennis court, I'm telling you what. Okay. So from the sixties when you had 20 installers to where you're at today of over 700 in this association, can you kind of give us the mile high view of the sports servicing market overall? Just how big is it and what does it all entail? I know you said a little bit in that beginning, but maybe give us a little deeper dive.

Tom Magner: So, the sports industry, there's a couple of answers to your question. Sports servicing industry where we play is we make acrylic coatings for existing surfaces, but the sports construction industry as a whole is billions of dollars.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Yeah.

Tom Magner: You're talking stadiums. You're talking lighting, fencing, seating, things that we don't necessarily get involved in. But the surfacing part of it is obviously a critical part. And exactly what you said, people don't realize what they're standing on sometimes until you have this conversation. There's a lot that goes into it. A lot of the technology that goes in behind it as to how much texture is there? How much solar glare, solar reflectivity? How colors interact with one another. One of the major developments in tennis, and it seems recent to me, but it was 25 years ago, was the advent of blue and purple courts. When we were growing up, every court was green and red or green and green. That's it.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

Tom Magner: Those were the only options. And we were at the forefront with some of the testing that found that, well, the tennis ball shows up better with a purple background. And that was the first purple courts that came to be in the late nineties. And then the US open switch to a blue court and now you've got all kinds of colors. Pickle ball has changed the colors of sports. You see three different tones on the same court. You see some wild pinks and yellows and oranges and some colors that we never played with before. So it really, it's been fun to see how it has changed even in my short time.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Yeah. Well talk a little bit about your products. You said it's an acrylic surfacing, but what are some of the characteristics that make them different and really a leader in the sports surfacing market? And I also want to keep going on, I'm really interested in some of the innovations of really voice of the customer. What do people need out there? I think that's really interesting.

Tom Magner: So that's a great question. And that's something that I wrestle with every single day. Being the first, sometimes you have a tendency to rest on your laurels, which we may have been guilty of in the past. We did reevaluate all our formulations and we said, "Let's go back to the drawing board. Let's see what we can do better." And about four years ago, five years ago, we did launch a whole new color line, which is the ultra-performance color line. We've tested it up some of our competitors in the industry, some of the other leading companies. And from almost every measure, whether it's UV resistance, abrasion resistance, permeability, we feel confident that we've created the best side of product on the market.

But those series of firsts that I mentioned is really what defines us. A lot of what we did is now being copied by other companies, primers and line paints and things like that. So we were the first company to introduce a product intended for cold weather usage. One of the challenges, I'm up in the Boston area-

Heidi J Ellsworth: Yeah.

Tom Magner: Particularly around here is the season ends pretty soon. Come October, the guys have to pull in the equipment and wrap it up for the year. There's always a few projects that they didn't get to. So, we invented a product that would dry very quickly that's ammonia based that they could put down to about 35 degrees.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Wow. Okay.

Tom Magner: So, it was extending the season, not just at the end of that season, but they could start a little bit earlier. If the high school tennis team needs their courts open in March, we have an opportunity for them to do so now. Then we flipped it on its head. We looked at the other alternative and when the courts get too hot. And this innovation actually came from our colleagues in Australia. They were dealing with some tournament temperatures where the courts could get up to 160 degrees sometimes.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Geez.

Tom Magner: And it becomes an issue of player safety and player health. So one of the things we're most excited about launching now is what we call cool top. Cool top coatings, which takes advantage of solar reflectivity technology and it helps to reduce the heat sink of the courts themselves, the temperature of the court, but not so much where you're changing the game itself. It's not going to be too bright, too glaring. It's basically going to reflect the solar reflectance, the UV light that becomes a heat sink over the course of the life of the court. And it just leads to greater player comfort and it's better for the environment, as well, in the long run.

Heidi J Ellsworth: I was going to say, that that was one of my next question is, from a sustainability standpoint or environmental, that seems like that would also be human health-

Tom Magner: Yeah.

Heidi J Ellsworth: But also, just overall on the heat islands to be able to cool things down a little bit, especially when you're talking about it in the big cities.

Tom Magner: Yes. Yeah. And that's not a new concept. I mean, some of our competitors have some yellow colors and what have you. The city of Los Angeles, I want to say about 10 years ago, tried painting some streets white. And one of the challenges we were running into in the sport servicing industry is the colors that are most reflective aren't necessarily the best to play on. The brighter, shinier colors, they may look pretty, but it's a lot of glare. It's difficult to see the ball, and they tend to fade faster or get dirty faster. You're going to get sneaker marks on a white court obviously.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Right.

Tom Magner: So that's why we've been able to take existing technology and try to overlap it with the colors of athletics.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Yeah. I mean, we see this with the coffee shops. We are on the rooftop. We're on the sides. We're on garages, but we are seeing this technology that's coming out that is not always defined by color. That there's still that solar reflectivity that is just part of the technology.

Tom Magner: Sure. Yep. And that's exactly right. And we hope to expand that. ICP, I mentioned, is the larger conglomerate, has roof coatings. We have some of this technology and some of our other products and now we've expanded it into the sports. And that's one of the beauties of being part of a larger company that dabbles in so many different parts of the envelope.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Yeah.

Tom Magner: ICP stands for Innovative Chemicals.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Yeah.

Tom Magner: I mean, that's where we're innovative. And we try to bounce things off of one another and take advantage of technologies in other industries and how we can utilize them. And now that we've done this with athletics, some of our other colleagues may be doing some with different types of paints.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Right.

Tom Magner: We're also looking at bike paths and things like that because we know that the industry is changing. It's not just tennis anymore. It's pickle ball. It's bicycle paths. It's sustainability in general.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Obviously track, track and field.

Tom Magner: Yep. Absolutely. Absolutely.

Heidi J Ellsworth: And running. I mean, there's just so-

Tom Magner: Yeah, I'm sorry, go ahead.

Heidi J Ellsworth: No, go ahead.

Tom Magner: About 20% of what we do is running tracks.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Wow.

Tom Magner: We try to parlay some of that technology into that as well.

Heidi J Ellsworth: I love that idea of the research and development, R&D, really benefiting so many areas because when you think about it, it is exactly what you're talking about is whether you're on the rooftop, and I know there's a lot of support services on rooftops too or if you are on the ground or even underground or inside, by having ICP be able to work with all these different companies and have research and development that really is working on environmental sustainability because we know how big that is, but also human health.

Tom Magner: Sure.

Heidi J Ellsworth: I know people probably think of it, but right now, I'm just kind of going, "That's great. That's really being able to spread that technology across so many platforms."

Tom Magner: And that's our hope and expectation that we can try to parlay that into expanded opportunities in player safety and visibility.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Yeah.

Tom Magner: So, it's really an exciting development. It's something we're just launching this year. You mentioned rooftops and on the ground is where courts are, but one of the issues that we run into there was moisture issues.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Yeah.

Tom Magner: And we've been able to take some of the technology from our roofing divisions and look at that, some of the waterproofing coatings and things like that. So that's why it's really exciting to be part of this much larger pond. And we can steal a little bit from them and steal a little bit from them and vice versa.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Exactly. Well, at the coffee shops, we're all about the contractor. We love our contractors. And so I would love to just visit a little bit about the sports services contractors. And you said back in the day, there's only about 20 who were installing and doing all this.

Tom Magner: Yep.

Heidi J Ellsworth: What does that contractor look like today? What is the market around sports surfacing?

Tom Magner: So, the vast majority of our partners are contractor installers. We'll provide the material directly to these folks that are sports surfacing contractors. It's somewhat unique. And I mentioned the American Sports Builders Association. It's a fraternity. It really is just a small subset. And people, like I joked about earlier, people are like, "I didn't realize anyone did that." Usually, they're very specialized in just this particular aspect of construction. The asphalt that goes down on an athletic court has to have much, much more strict parameters than you'd put on a street or a parking lot, has to be tighter because it's not going to be compacted over the life of the surface, has to be more sensitive to moisture issues.

Likewise, if you're doing a concrete court, your expansion joints can't be in the middle of the playing surface. They need to be off to the side or under the net or what have you. So these are considerations that your average contractor doesn't necessarily have to deal with, but the sports surfacing contractor, it's critical to them. So it really is a unique element, a unique subset of construction.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Yeah.

Tom Magner: And these fellows that do this. And we're very blessed and proud of dealing with most of the best contractors, not just in the US, but across the world.

Heidi J Ellsworth: That's right. Now, do these contractors, do they pretty much stay focused on sports surfacing or are they also doing some other coatings along with that?

Tom Magner: For the most part, they are dedicated sports contractors. There are some exceptions. There are some larger companies that might have different crews that do different things.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Right.

Tom Magner: Some of them may branch into other aspects of sports construction, like I mentioned earlier, the lighting or the fencing of things like that. But for the most part, they specialize in the surface itself. Or the subsurface, the asphalt concrete and then the surfacing.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Yeah.

Tom Magner: The Sports Builders Association now has a certification program and they have to take certain classes to be a certified tennis court builder, to be a certified track builder. And that proves that they've established expertise in all the different aspects of that construction.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Right. Wow. And I'm just thinking as you're talking about this, the different layers, what it all goes into it, what give and take does it have to have? And then just withstanding the weather, like you said before. And so with California Sports Surfaces, it's really kind of topping between the top coat obviously and the primer. Are you doing any other parts of that system in the tracks or tennis courts or anything?

Tom Magner: Yeah, so that's a great question. And this goes back to your comment earlier about people not knowing what they're standing on.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Yeah.

Tom Magner: Most of our services, and especially at the higher levels, professional tournaments and what have you are cushioned. People don't realize it because it's not soft. You don't want your surface to be soft because that's how you how you turn an ankle or changes in the heat. You want it to be resilient or shock absorbent. So just if it's eight or 10% shock absorbent, that's enough to take the pressure off your knees, your ankles, your joints, your muscles without changing the bounce of the ball, without changing the game itself. And that's really where we specialize in, in trying to provide comfort without changing the sport.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Right. So that those balls are bouncing the way they're supposed to and the way they practice.

Tom Magner: Yeah.

Heidi J Ellsworth: And okay. that brings me to another question is, the difference between different courts because, and you said there's certification and there's training for installations, but I'm sure there must be metrics or building codes or however you put that to make sure that you have consistency through different courts that people might be playing on, especially on the high professional levels.

Tom Magner: Yeah. I mean, the footing is the most important thing is the texture of the surface. And what people may not realize is it's not just paint. It's a specialized coating, but usually includes silica sand. So it has some texture to it. It provides footing obviously for the player and some safety if it's a dewy or a little bit wet outside. But also, it affects the bounce of the ball. It's less critical in pickle ball or basketball. But the Tennis Federation has specific pace ratings on how the ball bounces off of a court and they assign a number to it. And then a company like ours, we've been able to be very precise in what we provide to them. So if they want a faster court where a ball bounces a little lower or a slower court where it sits up higher, we can provide that by tweaking some of the formulations.

Heidi J Ellsworth: That is so cool.

Tom Magner: It's fun.

Heidi J Ellsworth: I love this stuff. I really do. When you start thinking about everything that goes into it, the ball speed, low, high, wherever. And then I just kind of think too, going back to on the track and field side of it or the biking, again, different ways of formulating the surfaces to make sure that they are doing what needs to happen for that sport.

Tom Magner: Sure.

Heidi J Ellsworth: So much to think about. And then when I think about other contractors who are doing waterproofing or roofing or different things, that is a whole system of protecting whatever they're coating, whereas yours is protecting, but also providing the elements for that sport and that competition. So it's really taking it one step higher of what you have to be thinking about.

Tom Magner: Yeah. Yeah, that's absolutely right. And it's important that we understand our systems. Some of our regional managers, one of our guys was a former tennis pro, so he knows it inside and out.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Love it.

Tom Magner: We have a guy who recently retired, but he was a professional pickle ball player on the side. So there's a lot of interactions with us knowing exactly what's going down on our surfaces.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Yeah. Knowing your sports, knowing your athletes basically.

Tom Magner: Yeah.

Heidi J Ellsworth: And what they're doing. Okay. So you also stay very close with your contractors. I know you have a loyalty program for your installers. Tell us a little bit about that.

Tom Magner: So, this is something brand new. We just launched it last month. They're currently only open to the North American contractors, but we hope to eventually expand it globally. And it's a loyalty program that basically rewards purchases. You earn points like you might with airline miles or some other type of program that we're all familiar with. It's unique to our industry. We believe we're the first to have launched something like this in our industry.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Awesome.

Tom Magner: But the contractors can earn points towards giveaways and this catalog of prizes and things they can earn. We are still building out the program. Eventually it's going to involve training programs and then perhaps customer loyalty events. The industry has changed drastically, not just to those 20 contractors, but even in the time I've been here. There was lots smaller organization, the ASBA used to be called the Tennis Court and Track Builders Association, and it was maybe a quarter of the members. And it really has just exploded in the last 25 years. So it really is an opportunity for us to reach back and reconnect with some of our customers that, they may feel like we've lost a little bit of that personal touch but the industry has changed and this is our way of saying, "Thank you for being with us and we want to do more with you."

Heidi J Ellsworth: Yeah, I think those are so important. The loyalty, the training. We know that there's a labor shortage. We see it in all trades, across construction, across everything really.

Tom Magner: Yep.

Heidi J Ellsworth: And to be able to have those kind of loyalty programs with the training, I think is so important. Not just for the company and their business, but also for their employees.

Tom Magner: That's absolutely right. Yep. And this loyalty between the supplier and the contractor, but there's also the loyalty that you just mentioned within the teams themselves, the employers and the labor. And some of our best contractors are teams that have stayed together for years.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Yeah.

Tom Magner: And they know our products inside and out from top to bottom. And if there's something that they want to question or what have you, the guy who's actually pulling the squeegee knows it best.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Exactly. So, okay. For contractors out there who are maybe doing some other types of coatings, maybe they're doing parking garages, maybe they're doing roof coatings, but they hear this podcast and they're like, "Ooh, I want to get into sports surfacing." What is some of your recommendations for people to get into your industry and into the market, both as installers, but also as contractors who want to start a business in sports servicing? What's the path to get there?

Tom Magner: So, the first thing I'd recommend to anyone who doesn't currently do sports surfacing is to go see a job being installed, maybe look on YouTube or maybe go visit your local park to watch a job to be installed because it is a different animal. I think that every one of us drives by a court on the way to work, and we think, "Oh, I could resurface that." It's not like regular house paint. It's a little bit more tricky because of the sand, because some of the rubber granules and things that might be involved in it, but most contractors that you've mentioned are skilled. They're talented. They can pick these sorts of things up, just to make sure that you know what you're up against.

And I think the other big part of that is the prep work. And that's probably no different than any of the trades that you just mentioned, but it is critical that the moisture levels be a certain way, the temperatures be a certain threshold. There's not a lot of margin for error with our coatings because they're not self-leveling. They have to be applied, and it's a little bit artistry to it.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Yeah.

Tom Magner: I often joke that I've been doing this for a long time and there's a reason why I sell it and I don't install it because I'm just not very good at it.

Heidi J Ellsworth: You have some craftsmen and women out there who are pretty dang good.

Tom Magner: That's right. That's right.

Heidi J Ellsworth: So, I think that, as we're looking at these, I love what you just said. Go watch it. Go see it installed, understand the systems. Because I think everyone in the industry understands systems and that it's not just paint. Even painting a house, there's tips and tricks, right?

Tom Magner: That's right.

Heidi J Ellsworth: And so how that goes down. I love it. And if people want to get involved with California Sports Surfaces, how do they do that?

Tom Magner: So, there's a few different ways. I mean, we've got a network of installers around the country and certainly opportunities to bring on new partnerships. We've got a series of regional managers based around the country. We have a national sales manager, and then several folks that live in different areas of the country. They can reach out to us via our website, via social media. The website is www.californiasportsservices.com.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Love it.

Tom Magner: And obviously through your location as well. And then on social media, we're on Facebook, Instagram, all the big hitters. They can contact us through those and we'll put you in touch with the right person locally that can help you get going.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Yeah. I think that's great. I think no matter what you do in the coatings world, this is something you should be aware of. We have videos on Coatings Coffee Shop. Of course, California Sports Services has a full directory on Coatings Coffee Shop, so you can get all this information and maybe learn some tips or tricks that might work for whatever type of coating applications that you're doing in your business.

Tom Magner: Sure.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Yeah, I find it fascinating. I love this stuff. And Tom, thank you so much. This has been so interesting. I'm really excited. You know what? Let's go over those associations again for the contractors out there who might be interested in also visiting them.

Tom Magner: So, I'm a big advocate of the American Sports Builders Association, www.sportsbuilders.org. And there's a lot of information on there. They've got recommended industry guidelines, and the contractors at least once or twice a year, will get together and issue a statement on stains and asphalt or concrete moisture or something like that. There's a lot of experience that goes into some of that information.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Excellent. And you never know. We may be talking to them to get on Coatings Coffee Shop too, so stay tuned. But you can find all of it under ICP and California Sports Services on Coatings Coffee Shop. Tom, thank you again.

Tom Magner: Thank you. I appreciate your time. Thank you.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Thank you. And thank you all for listening. Wow. Such great stuff. We are going to continue to explore the world of coatings and liquid applied systems no matter where it goes down. And this is just the start. So stay tuned. Our very first Sports Surfacing podcast, but definitely not the last. Be sure to check out all of our podcasts under the Read, Listen, Watch navigation of Coatings Coffee Shop or on your favorite channel. Be sure to subscribe and set the notifications so you don't miss a single episode. We'll be seeing you next time on Coating's Cast.

Outro: Thanks for joining us on this coding adventure. Stay tuned for more episodes. And in the meantime, be sure to follow us on social media to stay updated with all things roof coatings. Until next time, stay coated. For more information, go to coatingscoffeeshop.com.



Recommended For You


Comments

There are currently no comments here.

Leave a Reply

Commenting is only accessible to RCS users.

Have an account? Login to leave a comment!


Sign In
SRS Roof Hub - Banner Ad - Spring 2024
English
English
Español
Français

UP TO THE MINUTE

By Jonny Suchor. Learn more about AkzoNobel’s 2024 Color of ...
By Evelyn Witterholt. Learn how Central Coating Company took home ...
Read More
GCMC-Podcast-WinTraining-Sidebar-2
Everroof-RoofingFundamentalsGiveaway-Sidebar
Project Map It - Side Bar - Digital Portfolio
Instant Roofer - Sidebar Ad - Embed Calculator
Kool Seal - Sidebar - New Products - Feb 24
Contractor Outlook - Sponsored by SRS