Behind the Scenes: Companies at the Heart of Everyday Life
Before each Pistons game, as the players are introduced, a set of computer-controlled flamethrowers, situated atop 18-foot aluminum trussing, shoots off 50-foot fiery plumes. Fueled by 130-pound tanks of propane, the devices generate a million BTUs each -- as well as a lot of crowd enthusiasm. Band-Ayd Systems, the company responsible for the flames, is a one-stop production shop that tackles lighting, sound, and other equipment. "If it plugs in, we do it," says owner Nino De Benedetti, who founded the company in Windsor, Ontario, in 1989. His 12 full-time employees have handled all sorts of events, from rock concerts to political rallies. Band-Ayd splashed 2,000 pounds of confetti following Super Bowl XL.
The Mascot Uniform
No modern NBA game is complete without the crowd-pumping histrionics of a team mascot. Since 2004, the costume for the Pistons' mascot, Hooper, the foam-and-faux-fur black stallion whose "horsepower" allows him to rappel from the roof and dunk off of a trampoline, has been manufactured by the Minneapolis-based VEE Corporation. CEO Vincent E. Egan founded the company, in 1980, to bring Sesame Street Live to the stage. Today, VEE has 300 employees who put on four roving children's shows a year, including My Little Pony Live. The company makes mascot suits for other NBA and NHL teams, as well as for other characters such as Count Chocula, SpongeBob, and Clifford the Big Red Dog.
The town of Dollar Bay, Michigan, is richly forested in sugar maple -- a dense, durable wood, perfect for the wear and tear of basketball. Horner Flooring has been converting lumber from the local mills since 1891, and CEO Doug Hamar says 80 percent of its business comes from the sports market. The majority of Horner's floors are permanent, fixed floors like the ones in high school gyms, but the company also makes a portable version for multiuse facilities like this one. The arena's 60- by 112-foot court, which costs about $115,000, is made up of 215 interlocking panels. The panels were assembled, sanded, and painted by some of Horner's 75 employees before being taken apart and shipped to Detroit.
Pistons fans shell out from $450 to $2,000 a ticket for courtside seats, but the seats themselves -- padded folding chairs made by Clarin in Lake Bluff, Illinois -- cost about $250 each. Since its founding, in 1925, the company has been making steel folding chairs with a frame design that prevents wobbling on uneven surfaces. Herbert Hoover once parked his presidential behind in a Clarin. The company has 100 employees and sales of more than $15 million a year, 25 percent of which comes from sports facilities.