In March, Nolan Catholic High School agreed to beta-test a new portable indoor turf manufactured in Fort Worth at Dollamur Sports Surfaces.
Steve Prud’homme, athletic director for the Fort Worth private school, didn’t realize how advantageous that would be.
After years of drought, the skies opened up in April and May, dumping unprecedented rain on North Texas and wreaking havoc with spring sports. But while many high schools had to cancel practices, Nolan coaches rolled out the 5-foot-by-50-foot sections, covering the gymnasium in artificial turf in about 30 minutes.
“It was the perfect time,” Prud’homme said. “We were going into the spring when people were getting rained out. We could have limited baseball and softball practice. We even had a spring football practice in there. It saved us a day of spring football.”
Versatility was what Dollamur had in mind when it developed the Gym Turf 365 product. The company, which made a name for itself selling mats for wrestling, gymnastics, cheerleading and martial arts, plans to start mass-producing the turf this month.
“There’s nothing that performs the way this does that’s portable that you can put out in this amount of time,” Dave Rossi, senior vice president of marketing and retail sales at Dollamur, said.
Baseball, softball, lacrosse and soccer teams can all use the turf in addition to regular physical education classes.
“It has great performance characteristics in terms of players being able to go full speed on it, tackle on it and it’s not abrasive,” CEO Don Ochsenreiter said.
Fort Worth-based Dollamur, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year, has been growing fast even without the turf.
Just two years after moving into the old Ranch Style Beans plant along Interstate 30 southeast of downtown, Dollamur has already outgrown the 140,000-square-foot space.
The company will expand into a nearby 25,000 square feet building in the next two months. It will also add a second shift with 20 to 25 new jobs to handle increased demand for mats and the new turf product.
Dollamur expects to ship about 6.3 million square feet of mats in 2015 to customers all over the United States, including the United World Wrestling competition in Las Vegas. It’s also the exclusive provider of martial arts mats to the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Sales are up 15 to 20 percent year-to-date, Ochsenreiter said.
The Gym Turf 365 turf was developed through a partnership with Shaw Industries. The carpet manufacturer created the grass while Dollamur made the mat-like padding underneath and the tented Flexi-Connect that joins the turf sections together.
“We’re the leader at portable indoor sports flooring. It just seemed logical that we could develop a high-performance super-safe sports turf so that any indoor sport … you could bring the practices indoors easily when there’s inclement weather,” Ochsenreiter said.
The untapped market could be worth $100 million in the United States alone, Ochsenreiter said. But Dollamur plans to market it as far away as the Middle East.
“We think the sports turf is going to provide significant growth. We are also looking at some strategic acquisitions,” he said.
The portable indoor market is their initial target for the turf product but future versions could be for more permanent installations, the same way they install mats in judo or yoga studios.
At Nolan, Prud’homme has long dreamed of building an indoor practice facility but that’s not in the budget. This turf allows him to accomplish the same goal using the existing gym. Coaches have also tried variations where half the gym floor is turf and the other half is set up for basketball. And the turf is more comfortable for students to sit on for assemblies or Mass than a hard gym floor.
“There’s a lot of value to it,” he said. “If you can’t get a new building, you might as well make your building twice as useful. Our minds are just racing with all the things we can do with it.”
Dollamur Sports Surfaces
Address: 1734 E. El Paso St., Fort Worth, TX, 76102
Products: Mats for wrestling, martial arts, gymnastics and crossfit
New product: Gym Turf 365 goes into mass production this month
Cost: $40,000 to cover a typical school gymnasium