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Thu January 30, 2014
Delaware County Company Basking In Super Bowl Spotlight
When the Super Bowl is played at MetLife Stadium — the home of the New York Giants and Jets that opened in 2010 — for the first time Sunday, there will be an upstate New York presence on the field. But it’s not in the form of a quarterback, coach or referee.
Adam Vinatieri kicked the game-winning field goal back in Super Bowl XXXVIIIto give New England a last-second win over Carolina.
If this Sunday’s game comes down to a similar pivotal play, billions of eyes around the world will be on the uprights in the end zone, where the goalposts sit 18 and a half feet apart, with the crossbar 10 feet off the ground. And at MetLife Stadium, as at a couple other NFL stadiums and thousands of college and high school fields across the country, the uprights come from rural Delaware County, where a Delhi company is excited about its moment in the limelight.
“It’s very huge for us,” says Delhi native Wayne Oliver, president of Sportsfield Specialties Incorporated, which built the custom goalposts for Metlife Stadium. “It’s a source of pride for us to be able to look at the big screen and say, ‘Hey, those are our goalposts,’ and I think everyone here would echo that sentiment. We’re excited about this opportunity.”
While the company is enjoying the hype associated with any Super Bowl, it actually survives building installations for complexes on the lower rungs of athletics, selling around 400 goalpost sets to high schools in colleges in 2013. Sportsfield Specialties was founded in 1998 and began manufacturing sports and sports arena equipment in 2004.
With about 100 employees split between the main Delhi plant and a North Carolina location, Sportsfield Specialties builds everything from dugouts, goals, tracks, netting, pads and curtains.
Like many other sectors of the economy, the company experienced a construction boom in 2009 before a slight decline. But in an age of frequent new stadium construction projects, companies like SSI figure to keep busy.
Oliver says he is proud to have stationed the company, which has two or three major competitors, in Delaware County.
“There’s a certain pride that goes into saying we’re growing a successful business in Delhi," he says. "I’ve lived in five different states and managed manufacturing facilities and businesses in those states and I can fairly easily tell you we have some of the best employees I’ve ever been associated with.”
David Moxley, director of sports construction sales, was the third employee hired at Sportsfield Specialties after college in 2000. He says in addition to portability, the goalposts at MetLife are built to conform to the NFL rulebook, which requires them to be bright yellow. And the days of simple paint are over.
“A powdercoat finish is something that’s been developed probably over the last five to 10 years," he says. "What you’re doing is putting an electrical charge through a piece of metal or whatever you product you might be powdercoating, you’re spraying it with a powder-type material that only allows a certain thickness to go on the metal, meaning any excess powder falls to the ground. Once you’re done with that, you remove the electrical charge, put the product in an oven and bake it at the correct temperature, which is around 400 degrees for 20 minutes, and that creates a shell around the product, an exterior shell coating, as opposed to a liquid paint finish, which you would spray on. It’s very inconsistent in terms of thickness, in terms of quality and isn’t going to last as long.”
Moxley says the goalposts are designed to last the life of the field. Because the field has multiple uses, the Meadowlands complex goalposts are on hinges and can be removed in about an hour by three workers.
“At the NFL level, you had to be approved vendor," he says. "And the way we were able to achieve that is we sold the fact that we could design a better set of goalposts for the University of Phoenix Stadium, home of the Arizona Cardinals. Their field moves in and out of the stadium and they needed goalposts that could go up and down very quickly. So we designed a set for them and after that met with the NFL to discuss putting us on their permanent approved product list, which we did.”
According to president Wayne Oliver, a pair of goalposts can cost anywhere between $6,000 for a low-end model and $12,000 or more for the top line. All that for a piece of equipment that usually only figures in a few seconds of action per game. But as Adam Vinatieri showed twice, they can be the most important seconds of the entire season.
So, with his company’s handiwork looming over the MetLife end zones, will president Wayne Oliver be watching from the stands on Sunday?
"My take sometimes is it's easier to watch on TV," he says. "Having gone once, I'd say worth one time for almost anybody, but to some degree, it's easier to watch on your home screen."
Which might be worth even more than three points.