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U.S. Bank Stadium covers turf with maple slabs for the NCAA Final Four

Bruce Haroldson adjusts a piece of the Final Four basketball court at U.S. Bank Stadium while Michael Stauffacher waits with the next piece on Friday, March 29. The court, which was made by a company in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula from timber harvested from Wisconsin, is constructed of about 400 slabs weighing 188 pounds apiece. Jean Pieri / St. Paul Pioneer Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- How do you turn a football stadium into a basketball arena?

You take it one piece at a time.

About two dozen workers laid slabs of hard maple timber — harvested from northern Wisconsin — down in U.S. Bank Stadium on Friday until the court came together like a puzzle. The endeavor, which spanned several hours, set the stage for the nation’s four best college basketball teams. They will square off at next weekend’s Final Four.

“It will be loud, it will be electric, it will be like nothing that you’ve seen before because of that college feel,” said Patrick Talty, who oversees transformation and operations at U.S. Bank Stadium. “This building, we take it and turn it into a lot of different things.”

The court was built by Connor Sports, a manufacturing company based in a small town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It has been the NCAA’s official court provider since 2006.

The company began harvesting and milling the timber in September, said Brian Klein of Connor Sports. They looked into sourcing the wood from Minnesota, but the forests were too wet at the time of harvest.

About 400 wood slabs, weighing 188 pounds each, were put on platforms and rolled onto the floor of U.S. Bank Stadium. Teams of workers laid the panels onto the ground and snapped them in place.

“With four guys, it’s decent. With two guys, you have to put your muscle in a little bit,” said Terron WIlliams, a U.S. Bank Stadium worker from Minneapolis who started putting the court together at 7:30 a.m. Friday. “I feel great.”

A second life for floor

So what happens to the 9,800-square-foot court after the semifinal and championship games?

“Every single court, since Connor Sports started supporting the NCAA as a supplier, has been purchased by the university who won the tournament that year,” Klein said.

That can cost anywhere from $80,000 to $100,000.

Past schools have used the court to connect with fans and alumni, Klein said. Some have repurposed it into their own playing surface, and others have sold it in parts and pieces to alumni as a fundraiser.

Not just for football

Recognized as the home of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, U.S. Bank Stadium also transforms to hosts baseball games, concerts, monster truck rallies and plenty of other activities.

Along with the Final Four’s wood floor, crews added a massive scoreboard hanging from the ceiling and 18,000 temporary seats, including 600 behind each basket for students from the competing colleges.

Workers will turn the stadium over again in a matter of weeks. Their next big undertaking? The summer X Games, which will return to Minneapolis Aug. 1-4.

“What we do in this building is amazing,” Talty said.