February 17, 2004
AstroTurf maker to file for bankruptcy

This is sad news.

Southwest Recreational Industries Inc., the Leander-based maker of legendary sports field surface AstroTurf, has filed for bankruptcy protection and soon will be out of business.

The bankruptcy leaves projects in limbo at athletic facilities across the country, including new turf that was slated for the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis. SRI cut more than 300 jobs before the filing, holding on to 190 employees companywide to help it shut down in the next two weeks.


In its bankruptcy filing, the company says it will sell off two small divisions that make portable sports flooring and equipment for volleyball, gymnastics and basketball. But the businesses for which the company is best known, football fields and running tracks, will be discontinued in the next few weeks after SRI finishes projects already under way.

The filing caps a dramatic decline for the company, which once was the industry leader in sports surfaces with millions in sales and fast growth.

But the company grew faster than management or its systems could handle, according to the bankruptcy filing, leading to costly mistakes. SRI also was heavily indebted, leaving little room for error. In mid-2003, the company hired a new CEO and an investment banker to explore its options.

"It is surprising to see a company go under so quickly," said Robert Sills, whose company, Martin Surfacing Inc. of Lancaster, Pa., is listed as SRI's second-largest creditor, with a $6.3 million claim. "They were the industry leaders and seemed quite profitable and seemed to be in good shape. And it all came unraveled pretty quickly."

SRI ended the year with $156.9 million in revenue, a nearly 29 percent drop from $220 million in 2002, as reported by business research firm Hoover's Inc.

In its bankruptcy filing, the company said it had about $102 million in assets and $88 million in liabilities as of Dec. 31, 2003.

Executives made the decision to file for bankruptcy Thursday as the company struggled to keep up with its debt payments.

Naturally, like all true sports fans, I prefer real grass to artificial surfaces. (As long as someone else has to mow it, of course. I've been trying for years to persuade Tiffany to let me install turf in our yard. Hey, if it's good enough for New York City parks, it's good enough for me.) Still, it's always sad to see such an icon pass by. At least we still have FieldTurf.

So what do you think would be an appropriate sendoff for them? A 21-cap gun salute? Maybe a party with Olestra chips, non-alcoholic beer, and tofuburgers? I'm open to suggestion.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 17, 2004 to Bidness | TrackBack

I say we play videotapes of catastrophic knee injuries to the tune of "The Blue Danube Waltz".

Posted by: Mac Thomason on February 17, 2004 4:16 PM

It's hard not to see this as a metaphor for the Bush Administration.

Posted by: precinct1233 on February 17, 2004 5:46 PM

I saw a front yard someone covered with real AstroTurf, oh man, you have no idea how awful it looked.

Posted by: Charles E on February 18, 2004 4:30 AM

Well, duh, Charles. If you don't paint the yardage markers on it, it is going to look like crap. Hey, c'mon now; who WOULDN'T want to live on the 50-yard line?? ;0)

Posted by: Jack Cluth on February 18, 2004 6:12 AM