SBJ/February 23 - 29, 2004/Facilities

Chapter 11 filing comes as surprise to industry, customers

AstroTurf maker SRI Sports has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, leaving in limbo the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis and other facilities that have contracts to install the company's AstroPlay field surface.

The Feb. 13 U.S. Bankruptcy Court filing in Rome, Ga., near two of the company's plants, listed total assets of $101.9 million and total debts of $88.1 million. SRI Sports officials were unavailable for comment.

SRI's parent company, Leander, Texas-based American Sports Products Group Inc., wasn't part of the filing.

Steve Maki, director of facilities and engineering for the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission in Minneapolis, said last week that he was waiting for a response from SRI regarding the Metrodome project.

"We sent a letter [on Feb. 13] and they haven't responded," Maki said. "We have not been able to get ahold of anybody, except a couple of ex-employees, and they don't know a whole lot other than their employment was terminated."

SRI has a contract to remove the Metrodome's 8-year-old artificial turf March 8 and install a new carpet a week later. The old surface is an SRI product.

Maki said the commission has financial protection in the form of a performance bond and a labor and materials payment bond. The insurance is worth an estimated $715,000, which covers the cost of the project.

"The performance bond ensures that the contractor will do the project and the labor and materials bond is to make sure that subcontractors will be paid for their duties," he said.

Maki said he visited with Jim Saboca, SRI vice president of sales, at the Stadium Managers Association conference in early February in Houston and that Saboca provided no indication that the company was in trouble.

"Everyone who heard about it was a bit surprised," said Kerry Goodson, the Stadium Managers Association's executive director. "We didn't receive any indication in advance."

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