Martin Surfacing stakes out its turf around the world

December 06, 1992|By Frank Lynch | Frank Lynch,Staff Writer

John Beynon specializes in places people play -- or, more precisely -- what they play on.

His company's handiwork ranges from gym floors for high schools to the warning tracks at Oriole Park at Camden Yards and Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami.

And business is booming for the Forest Hill resident's Martin Surfacing, to the tune of more than $18 million a year in sales.

Since 1974, the 60-employee company has manufactured and installed about 2,500 gym floors and more than 100 running tracks. Annual sales have grown from $360,000 to over $18 million.

"We've been extremely fortunate," said Mr. Beynon. "Our products have been well-received around the country."

Last year the Cockeysville-based company entered a new venue by installing the warning tracks at the Baltimore and Miami stadiums. The company began making "Versaturf 360," the substance for warning track, five years ago. The track is placed around the edge of a stadium to warn players when they are about to run into the wall.

Mr. Beynon sat at his desk recently fiddling with a piece of the company's latest innovation.

"This," he said, holding a swatch of green knitted nylon, "will allow us to expand over the next several years."

The material, recently installed at a new Redskins training field, is less abrasive than other artificial surfaces, he said. It also has been installed the University of Victoria in British Columbia and the Round Valley Ensphere Dome in Arizona.

Demand for its products has pushed the company to its limits, said Jerry Bosse, one of two vice presidents. Martin Surfacing, he said, is the only U.S. company manufacturing and installing polyurethane running tracks and gym floors and subcontracts no work.

Mr. Beynon got into the business in 1970 with a sales position at Powerlock Floor of Philadelphia. Four years later, with the company facing serious financial difficulties, he made a buyout offer.

"I honestly felt the company wasn't moving in the right direction and that, if given the chance, I could make the company financially sound," he said, explaining that wood gym floors were becoming too costly.

Martin Surfacing installed its first synthetic indoor surface, covering 40,000 square feet in the Essex Community College athletic center. The material was purchased from a Midwestern company, but Martin Surfacing now manufactures all the material it installs.

In 1977, the company installed its first polyurethane outdoor track at the University of Maryland at College Park. "We have showcased that track over the past 15 years," said Mr. Beynon. "It was the springboard to where we are today."

The company has installed 124 running tracks, including one at Tad Gormley Stadium in New Orleans, site of the 1992 U.S. Olympic Trials.

The company also has installed tracks at several American colleges and universities and in Mexico, Saudi Arabia, India and Zimbabwe.

"We are looking for more work in other countries," Mr. Beynon said. "Although two European companies install synthetic surfaces, we feel our product is superior. We've had foreign organizations inspect a few of our facilities, and they were impressed."

The company has offices in Chicago, Seattle, New Orleans and Philadelphia. Though it advertises in trade journals and athletic directors' directories, most of its business comes from referrals.

And company officials go to great lengths to visit prospective sites.

"We've made it a habit to attend all collegiate conventions and major track events across the country," Mr. Beynon said. "That personal touch is worth so much to us."

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