Bankruptcy filing leaves projects in limbo


LEANDER, Texas -- AstroTurf-maker Southwest Recreational
Industries Inc., which installed an artificial playing surface at
sports facilities including the Louisiana Superdome, has filed for
bankruptcy protection and is going out of business.

The bankruptcy leaves projects in limbo at athletic facilities
across the country, including new turf scheduled for the Hubert H.
Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, where the Twins, Vikings and
University of Minnesota Golden Gophers play.

"This is something that's being assessed right now, which
projects we're going to be able to complete versus which projects
we're not," said Matthew Levin, SRI's bankruptcy attorney. "At
this point it's just too early to say."

Leander-based SRI laid off about 320 employees on Thursday, a
day before it filed for bankruptcy in Rome, Ga. It held on to about
190 employees to help it shut down over the next two weeks.

In its bankruptcy filing, the company said it will sell two
small divisions that make portable sports flooring and equipment
for volleyball, gymnastics and basketball. But SRI's most
well-known products, football fields and running tracks, will be
discontinued in the next few weeks.

Calls to SRI went unanswered on Tuesday. Matthew Levin, the
company's bankruptcy attorney, did not immediately return telephone
calls seeking comment.

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. The heavily indebted company grew faster than
management or its systems could handle, according to the bankruptcy

In mid-2003, the company hired a new CEO and an investment
banker to create and implement a turnaround strategy. But SRI's
problems continued and it could not obtain financing for continued

"It is surprising to see a company go under so quickly," said
Robert Sills, whose Pennsylvania-based company, Martin Surfacing
Inc. 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," Sills told the Austin
American-Statesman for a Tuesday story. "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. It
also said the company has more than 1,000 creditors.

AstroTurf, the first artificial playing field surface, was
created more than 30 years ago. Artificial turf came to
professional sports in 1966, when it was used to carpet the
Astrodome, inspiring the AstroTurf brand name.

SRI, which entered into the artificial turf business in 1989,
bought AstroTurf Industries Inc. in 1994 from St. Louis-based
Balsam Corp., which had filed for bankruptcy.