By Mike Patterson / World-Herald staff writer
Take it from the guy in charge of installing the court for this week’s NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship.
Players and fans are going to be floored.
“It’s going to look great,” said Danny Lahr, an official with Connor Sport Court International. “We take what we do very seriously, so I think everyone will like what they see.”
Lahr was busy supervising the three-hour installation of the court Monday at CenturyLink Center in preparation for the tournament, which begins Thursday. And with Nebraska as one of the final four entrants, he knows how much attention will be paid to that court.
“The CenturyLink guys are great to work with,” Lahr said. “I don’t see any problems ahead, but I’ll be here for the tournament just in case.”
Twelve arena workers were busy Monday putting down a rubber padding over the basketball court. Then more than 10,000 10-inch-by-10-inch tiles would be laid down on top of that, forming the volleyball court.
“It’s kind of like a big jigsaw puzzle,” Lahr said. “The tiles lock into place when you step on them, so it goes fairly quickly.”
Jim Madison, a senior arena maintenance worker, said the rubber base should give the floor a little extra cushion.
“There’s usually felt under there,” he said. “This should be even better.”
Lahr said his company has been working with the NCAA since August on plans for the court. It will have a red attack area, two large NCAA championship logos and an outer rim of black with the words “Omaha” written in red.
He added that it was simply a coincidence the middle area is red and that it wasn’t planned that way for the Huskers.
Lahr said the victorious tournament team has the opportunity to purchase the new court for about $40,000. If the school declines, then the tiles go back into the company’s inventory.
Sport Court has been a partner of the NCAA for more than 20 years. The Salt Lake City company provided the courts for the four Division I regional sites and also provides the courts for the Division II and Division III finals.
“We want every part of the student-athlete experience to be nothing but the best, and that’s why we use Sport Court,” said Kristin Fasbender, NCAA director of championships. “The quality and look of the product is tremendous and makes sure our student-athletes know they are playing for a national championship.”
Kristi Andersen, director of communications for the Metropolitan Entertainment & Convention Authority, said fans can get a good look at the floor Wednesday when each of the Final Four teams — Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota and Texas — will hold practices that are open to the public.
She added that tickets for Thursday’s semifinals were an especially hot commodity.
“I checked today, and there weren’t any available,” Andersen said. “Fans will have to purchase them through other sources or check back later in the week in case a school returns part of its allotment.”
It’s obvious that school won’t be No. 4-seed Nebraska, which will play No. 9 seed Kansas in an 8:30 p.m. semifinal Thursday. That match will follow the semifinal between No. 2 seed Minnesota and No. 3 seed Texas, which begins at 6 p.m.
The final will be played at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
Lahr said he doesn’t cheer for specific teams, but always likes to see schools located close to the final four destination reach the tournament.
“It’s more fun to watch when there’s a big crowd,” he said. “And I know we’re going to have that here in Omaha.”
Lahr added that the players aren’t the only ones who might be feeling the pressure this week.
“These teams are the best of the best,” he said. “And you want everything to be perfect.”