AKRON—Throughout the past six months, I have had the incredible opportunity to speak with various people about how rubber and plastics are utilized in the sports we love to watch and play. From thermoplastics elastomers in water fins and grips for all kinds of sports to the technology behind Bridgestone golf balls, it has been quite an educational experience.
This blog series also granted me the opportunity to tour the Wilson football plant in Ada, Ohio, which makes all the footballs for the National Football League, including the ones used in the Super Bowl and Pro Bowl.
According the Wilson website, the plant employs 120 people who produce 4,000 footballs a day and more than 700,000 a year. The plant also produces official footballs for the NCAA, 28 high school associations, American Youth Football and countless other leagues.
“The quality of the official NFL football is a direct result of the professionalism and skilled craftsmanship of the workers in Ada,” the website claims.
“Whether you cut panels, sew the footballs or turn them right side out, everyone at the Wilson football factory shares the goal of producing the highest quality football in the game. That dedication to quality has made Wilson a big part of American football lore.”
With all this build-up on the website, I decided I drive down to this little piece of Americana.
I arrived at the plant and met with Daniel Riegle, plant manager, and sat down in his office to discuss all the rubber and plastics that go into a football. Riegle has worked at the plant for 34 years and has been the plant manager for about 19 years.
His trek into the world of football was simple: he saw an ad in the paper in 1981 and decided to make a go of it.