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June 2011
Building Fields of Dreams
By Casey Jacobus

     In the early ’90s, Canadian Matt Broughton moved south to sell ice hockey equipment. He was the sales manager for Crystaplex, a company that manufactured ice hockey boards. Choosing to locate in Charlotte as an up and coming city, Broughton thought that interest in ice hockey was about to take off in the southeast U.S.

     “Hockey is a great sport,” says Broughton, who has both played and coached ice hockey. “In Canada, a town of 1,500 people can support an ice hockey rink. I thoroughly expected it to catch on in the U.S.

     After five years, however, the ice hockey market in the Southeast had begun to flatten out, so Broughton decided to turn his focus to indoor soccer boards. With the addition of some complimentary product lines, he founded Medallion Athletic Products, Inc., with headquarters in Mooresville.

     In addition to building its own boards, Medallion added turf supply and installation to its business, building a number of indoor projects across the country. From there, interest increased in the outdoor field market, and in 2001, Medallion began installing outdoor artificial turf projects.

 

A Good Footing

     The company’s first turf decision was whether to represent a major brand, which Medallion had some experience with, or build a turf product of its own. Broughton made the decision to use his company’s contacts and knowledge to put its own formula together. He introduced the Maxplay artificial turf system, incorporating the latest in synthetic grass fiber technology with the best manufacturing methods and materials, to provide a quality playing surface with maximum durability at an affordable cost.

     “We did our homework,” says Broughton. “At the time, it was a very difficult decision, however looking back, and realizing that the decision enabled us to enter the market competitively with a product that we trusted, it was definitely the way to go.”

     In 2004, Medallion with their MaxPlay brand was awarded a 5-field project for the city of Asheville—the largest multi-field artificial turf project in the Southeast at the time. Since then, Medallion has become the leading field contractor in the Carolinas, installing more artificial turf projects than any other company. It has also completed outstanding fields in Virginia, Maryland, Florida and Georgia.

     Medallion has also partnered with the Italian firm Mondo to represent their premium line of indoor synthetic surfacing for all multi sports activities. In addition to their synthetic products, Medallion also represents, distributes and installs the Mondo turf and track products. Mondo is the leading international sports surface manufacturer, supplying the surfaces for the past 10 Olympic Games and London in 2012.

     In addition to artificial turf systems and track surfaces, Medallion offers a diverse line of other athletic products including protective netting, hardwood and synthetic flooring, and gymnasium equipment. Its netting applications include batting cages, backstop netting, portable netting for lacrosse and gymnasium divider curtains.

     The first widely publicized use of synthetic turf for athletic fields was at the Houston Astrodrome in 1966. That first generation of artificial turf, called AstroTurf, was essentially a short pile carpet with a foam backing. Since then, design changes have resulted in a greater variety of synthetic turf athletic fields.

     Modern artificial field surfaces generally have three layers—the turf surface, the infill and the sub base. The turf consists of colored polyethylene plastic blades that simulate grass and layers of “infill” that keep the blades upright. The infill varies by turf system and may include ground up recycled tires, ground up soles of athletic shoes, silica sand and/or new thermoplastic rubber material.

     Once a costly feature used primarily in professional sports arenas, synthetic turf has found its way to the college and university market and even more recently to the public school playing field.

 

Evergreen in So Many Ways

     Figures from the Synthetic Turf Council, a trade organization based in Atlanta, show that 10 years ago there were seven new-generation fields installed in the United States. Today there are 3,500. Many school districts choose synthetic turf because it is attractive, durable and requires little maintenance.

     Watering, mowing, fertilizing and reseeding are not necessary, and artificial turf is usable year-round regardless of the weather, without resting or regrowth periods between vigorous activities. For locations that are often in the media spotlight, such as professional sports fields, artificial turf is consistently attractive without dull areas or uneven coloration.

     While more expensive to install, artificial fields require much less personnel and equipment for mowing and maintenance. It drains easily; there are never mud puddles. It provides a soft cushion so there are fewer safety hazards.

     “While in the past, artificial turf was too expensive and sometimes uncomfortable and unsafe to play on, today it is comfortable, affordable and a sensible option for growing athletic and recreational communities,” Broughton asserts.

     Medallion’s broad consumer base is indicative of the growing use of artificial turf for colleges and universities, public schools, and parks and recreation departments. Medallion has built eight fields for Charlotte Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation; provided 450,000 square feet of turf for the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and built a premier soccer and lacrosse field for High Point University.

     The company won the American Sports Builders Association Multi Use Facility of the Year award for its work at Mooresville High School in 2008 and the same association’s Distinguished Single Field Facility for its work on the Spartanburg High School artificial turf field the next year. Medallion also won glowing testimonies from the people with whom they worked on these projects.

     “We are very proud of our field,” says Barclay Marsh, speaking of the Mooresville High School project. “It exceeds our wildest dreams and it is a tremendous source of pride for our teams, our school and our community. I have to say that the people from Medallion were there for us. We received a great field in a time span I’m not sure anyone else could have done.”

     Myles Wilson, who was the athletic director at Spartanburg High School during the installation of the field, speaks of the benefits of a year-round playing field.

     “The facility has allowed Spartanburg to partner and collaborate with numerous off-campus groups in their pursuit of athletic undertakings,” Wilson commented. “Municipalities, colleges, AAU teams, club teams and the NC/SC Shrine Bowl are just a few groups that have visited our campus since the installation of the field.”

     As a regional contractor, Medallion prides itself on its ability to meet customer’s expectations for quality and service. Whether it’s a renovation of an existing gymnasium or new construction, Medallion provides an excellent product, precise construction and great service.

 

Medallion of Quality

     “Our management of a project is comprehensive,” says Broughton. “Our hallmarks are quality craftsmanship and products, excellent cost-to-value ratio, and taking the time to understand the expectations of our clients.”

     Medallion handles everything “in house” and tries to make what can be a very complicated process as smooth as possible for the customer, from the initial contact through to sign-off when the project is completed to the client’s satisfaction. The goal is to build a loyal customer base. Medallion customers confirm the company’s ability to manage and complete their projects on time.

     Evan Miller of Charlotte’s Sports Center, an 80,000-square-foot indoor sports and play facility on Harris Boulevard, says Medallion has done numerous jobs for the Sports Center over the years.

     “Every job they have done has been first class and their attention to detail is excellent,” says Miller. “It is without hesitation that I recommend Medallion Athletics as a trusted and reliable business partner.”

     When Broughton began Medallion in 1996, it was a one-man business. Broughton did everything: he sold the product, bought the materials, installed the product and collected the money. He expanded the company by hiring friends for their work ethic and good character and brought in other individuals from the industry to meet specific skills needed, and today the company has grown into a unique organization.

     “We’re not your average construction company,” Broughton insists. “Building a brand, marketing it, selling it and installing it is unique. We manage a project from top to bottom, doing everything in-house.”

     Consequently Broughton’s own job has evolved into a managerial position where he is working constantly to make sure everyone in the business is focused on the same goal.

     “It’s like the children’s telephone game,” he laughs. “My job is to make sure the message is the same from start to finish. Communication is essential, and we hold regular team meetings to ensure that we are all on the same page. I value my ability to be in touch with all aspects of the company from the smallest clerical tasks to onsite construction details. Everything matters.”

     The evolution of Medallion from a supplier/installer to a vertically integrated general contractor capable of performing turnkey operations in-house has enabled the company to keep costs low as well as serving its customers better. It has also helped the company survive the economic downturn.

 

Real Growth

     “We’ve grown significantly during the past year three years,” asserts Broughton, “We are currently putting infrastructure and policies in place that should help us continue to expand profitably in the future. We are ready to increase both sales and profits in tandem.”

     One way Broughton plans to grow is to expand the territory served by Medallion, moving south to Florida and southwest to Alabama. He expects Medallion to be the premier field contractor in the entire southeastern U.S. He also plans to expand by building more athletic track systems for recreational organizations.

     Additionally, Broughton plans to expand his three-year-old company, MAXLawn, which supplies and installs landscape turf products away from the athletic field market. MAXLawn provides turf for residential, commercial, playground, kennel and golf applications.

     “Putting synthetic turf into residential lawns is becoming a huge business on the West Coast,” says Broughton. “The idea of ‘waterless’ lawns is just beginning to catch on here.”

     In fact, artificial turf is being adapted for many new commercial and home uses. Malls, hotels and similar indoor resort areas frequently use artificial turf for display grass in both permanent and temporary exhibits. Many retirement communities use extensive amounts of artificial turf for landscaping as it is handicap accessible: wheelchairs roll easily across the turf and canes or walkers do not sink into unseen holes.

     Artificial turf also has many uses for private homeowners. In areas with little rainfall, it is possible to have a natural looking green lawn using synthetic turf. It can also be used as a tread for decks, patios, stairs and children’s play areas. It is also serviceable as flooring in a doghouse or kennel, cushioning paws and providing a warmer surface than a standard concrete floor.

     Artificial turf also benefits the environment. It does not need to be fertilized or watered, thus fewer pesticides and harmful chemicals are not introduced to the ecosystem and thousands of gallons of water are conserved. Often manufactured from recycled products, artificial fields utilize thousands of old tires and other waste materials that would otherwise clog landfills.

     “While we are fielding more phone calls all the time from recreational organizations,” says Broughton, “I believe the commercial side of the business is also going to continue to grow. Business owners want their facilities to look good all the time. Artificial turf looks immaculate even in wintertime.”

     Broughton enjoys providing and impressing others the fields of their dreams. For Broughton, one thing is clear: the grass on his side is always greener!

Casey Jacobus is a Lake Norman-based freelance writer.
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