The Super Bowl Is a Showcase for Ada, Ohio (2023)

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ADA, Ohio — When David Tyree leaped into the air to complete the Helmet Catch, pinning the ball with one hand against his head in the final minutes of Super Bowl XLII, broadcasters and fans heaped praise on the Giants receiver for a play that defied belief. But from his seat in the Super Bowl crowd in Glendale, Ariz., Dan Riegle thought differently. Wow, what an amazing football. “That must be a great football, [for Tyree] to be able to grip that with one hand and catch it right against your helmet,” Riegle says.

He felt the same way when he watched Odell Beckham Jr. make his famous three-finger, falling-backward grab in a 2014 Giants-Cowboys game. “I know Odell is good, but to be able to grab that thing like that right out of the air … ” Riegle shakes head. “When I see those kinds of plays, it makes me feel good.”

As the plant manager for the Wilson Sporting Goods factory, Riegle is inclined to credit the ball, not the baller, for remarkable plays. After all, that’s his baby out there. Every football made by Wilson, the official provider for the NFL and NCAA, is produced at the plant runs in this small town in northwest Ohio.

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It’s a quiet Friday morning in the boss’s office at the football factory. The 108 official Super Bowl game balls were sent to the Eagles and the Patriots soon after their conference championship victories, and now the plant is busy producing retail balls, sold for $179.99 at sporting goods stores, and at pop-up shops all over the Twin Cities this week. Visitors to Wilson are greeted by a wall of media coverage of the factory throughout its six decades in Ada. Two mounted bucks stare down from the wood-paneled walls at Riegle’s desk, where he’s managed the plant for the last 37 years. Super Bowl season is a popular time at Wilson, and the guest sign-in sheet shows several local radio and TV outlets stopping by in recent days.

Riegle, voted Mr. Football as a receiver at Arlington (Ohio) High for two straight years, has spent nearly his entire working life making footballs. Now 64, he will be retiring in March to spend more time with his two grandsons and working on his corn and soybean farm 20 miles down the road. But today he’s focused on one last push to the Super Bowl, and a few more tours of the factory he calls home.

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Riegle grabs a pair of safety glasses as he opens the door onto the factory floor. Old silver sewing machines clang and whir as employees methodically stich together panels of leather. A steam press loudly releases after stamping Super Bowl LII logos onto leather panels. An old-fashioned school-type bell rings to dismiss a shift of employees for their 10-minute break. Brand new balls awaiting laces and air pressure are neatly arranged in several rows of bins, like newborn babies lined up in incubators at a maternity ward.

“People tend to think, oh, it all just goes into a machine and comes out the other end as a football,” Riegle says. “But that couldn’t be further from the truth.”

Football-making is a people business. Riegle likes to say it’s not really a job, it’s a craft. Some two dozen people have a hand in each ball that’s made in Ada, and 3,000 balls are finished each day over a multistep process that takes three to five days from start to finish for each ball. Footballs are the only product produced at the Ada plant, and the process hasn’t changed much since 1941, when Wilson became the NFL’s official maker. You’ve got the cutters, the stampers, the sewers, the turners, the lacers, the molders, the inspectors and the packagers. Each group has a specialized job in the cycle.

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The cutters use stencils that look like football-shaped cookie-cutters to pierce panels out of the leather hides, four per football. The stampers take the panels and insert them into a complicated machine that presses a shiny foil design onto the balls—on this day it’s the silver and blue Super Bowl LII logo. The sewers stitch the four panels together inside out, so the seams don’t show. The sewing job is so detailed and complicated that it can take three to five months for an employee to perfect it. The turners take the inside-out shells and turn them right side out. The lacers double-lace each ball. The molders inflate them to exactly 13 PSI inside a special mold. (Riegle says he got hundreds of calls during Deflategate, questioning the accuracy of the air pressure of footballs at the factory.) The team of inspectors study each football closely to ensure every detail is cosmetically and functionally perfect.

The standards are high. Botched balls that fail to pass inspection are known as blems, or blemishes. Riegle says there’s only a small percentage, thanks to the inspections that happen at each stage of the process. Once a ball passes inspection, the packagers box up each ball for retail or sort them to ship off to teams.

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Employees often spend their entire Wilson careers at the same station in the cycle, and job openings at the plant are rare—the average employee tenure is about 20 years, and, says Riegle, “the only time we have a job open is when somebody retires.”

Michelle Burkett, one of the two cutters working the Friday shift, has put in 43 years at Wilson. She was a lacer until she injured her arm, then switched to cutter, a less wrist-intense job. Burkett smiles as she spreads each hide across her workspace. She points out that hidden in the pebbled pattern of each tanned hide are small Wilson Ws. Her favorite days are when tours come through the factory and she gets to share her insider Wilson facts with new people.

Along the east side of the factory runs a street named Charles Moore Turn, dedicated to former Wilson employee Charles Moore, who performed the most physically challenging job—“turning” the ball—for 43 years.

It takes real muscle to wrestle the stiff pigskin shell right-side out, but the turners make it look as smooth as flipping a pancake. When NFL players come through the Wilson factory on tours, Riegle will let them attempt to turn a ball. “They end up with it in a knot, and we have to get it straightened out for them,” Riegle says. “When they leave here they have an appreciation for the product they are using.”

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Even offensive lineman with forearms the size of small tree trunks can’t wrangle the shell into place. To soften up the ball, the turner places it into a steam box for 25 seconds. He then takes the warm ball and hammers in the two pointy ends, and places one end on the top of a pole attached to a table, using the pole to quickly work the leather right-side out through the gap where the laces will go. Each turner will flip 500 to 600 balls each day. Riegle estimates Moore, the 43-year legend, turned five million balls in his career.

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But the most enviable position in the factory might be lacer, because they work with an already right-side out and sewn-together ball, and get the satisfaction of completing the last step in the manual production process. Sally Matthews, 56, gracefully weaves long white laces in and out, in and out. She works quickly, her fingers wrapped with white tape so she can get a better grip on the rough leather and laces. Her taped-up hands make her look almost as much like a professional athlete as the player who will carry or catch the ball she’s working on.

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Matthews has been doing the job at Wilson for a year and a half now. Employees are paid by the piece, to incentivize meeting quota, and Matthews says she’s competitive with herself. “The first week I started, I probably did, maybe 30 balls each day,” Matthews says. “But now I do, like, 150.”

Employees usually wear light blue button-down work shirts with their name stitched in a powder blue cursive script, but Fridays are a more casual uniform day, and most employees are sporting red Wilson t-shirts, or Ohio State Buckeyes jerseys. A few workers, however, are showing their Super Bowl 52 colors: Frank Guerra, 41, wears a black Philadelphia Eagles hat and has taped a small “Fly Eagles Fly” laminated poster to his workstation. Over in the lacing section, another employee has decorated her space with several Patriots Super Bowl rally towels.

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Guerra is a stamper, so he runs the machine that prints logos on each leather panel through a 14-step stamping process. “It is pretty tedious work,” he says. “We have to make sure that everything is lined up. My station has 14 holders, so I have to make sure that all of my 14 holders are identical. It’s hard work. You have to have a good quality eye.”

Even though the job can be monotonous, Guerra says he never gets football fatigue. “I love what I do—I take pride in it,” he says. “I have always been into football, and it is just more exciting knowing I had a part in making the football.”

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The football trade is what sets Ada apart from Alger and Dunkirk and McGuffey and other towns in Hardin County, marked by miles of corn and soybean fields. Wilson pride is evident all over town. One of Ada’s two water towers reads MADE IN ADA and is painted with the Wilson logo and the NFL shield. The standard green town sign stands next to one that that marks Ada as “Home of the Wilson NFL Football.”

“There is a special meaning to everybody here that the people that work here live out in the Midwest amongst the cornfields, yet we make such a high-exposure product,” Reigle says.

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Everyone in Ada knows someone who works for Wilson. The workers often say they feel like family, and many times they really are family. On this Friday morning shift, two of the six turners were related, an uncle and nephew.

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Riegle will travel to Minneapolis for Super Bowl LII with a team of his top Wilson employees. They’ll perform their art for crowds at the NFL’s Super Bowl Experience in the days leading up to the game.

Back in town, locals will gather for the second annual Made in Ada Wilson Football Festival, held on the day before the Super Bowl. They’ll tailgate at the train depot and screen football movies at the town theater. Kids will try to stay awake late into the night; the town will usher in SuperBowl Sunday, counting down the final seconds untilmidnight, with a New Year's Eve-style ball drop. Only this ball is a 10-foot long Wilson football lantern. Most importantly, it’s made in Ada.

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Are all NFL footballs made in Ada Ohio? ›

ADA, Ohio — What is handcrafted in a white and red building located, in Ada, Ohio, is about to thrill millions of fans. It is the Wilson Football Factory. Every NFL football since 1941 has been made here.

What is Ada Ohio famous for? ›

Ada has been noted for having one of the shortest place names in Ohio. The National Arbor Day Foundation has qualified Ada as a Tree City USA since 1981.

Who has won the most Super Bowl winners? ›

The New England Patriots have won the Super Bowl a record six times, most recently Super Bowl LIII in February 2019. Joining them at the top of this list is the Pittsburgh Steelers, whose most recent of their six titles came in 2009.

How is the host city chosen for the Super Bowl 2023? ›

For the first time, this Super Bowl location is one in which the league did not use a bidding process to determine who'll host the game. The NFL now unilaterally chooses a single hosting site for each game, and the city selected submits a proposal to host the game which is then voted upon at the league meetings.

Does the NFL still use pigskin footballs? ›

Ironically, though they are still called “pigskins,” nowadays all pro and collegiate footballs are actually made with cowhide leather. Recreational and youth footballs, on the other hand, are often made with synthetic material or vulcanized rubber. All Big Game footballs are made of handcrafted cowhide leather.

What are cheap footballs made of? ›

Footballs still have an internal bladder, but today they're made of polyurethane or rubber.

What was the goal of the ADA? ›

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in several areas, including employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications and access to state and local government' programs and services.

Why is the ADA important? ›

The ADA guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to enjoy employment opportunities, purchase goods and services, and participate in state and local government programs.

How many Americans benefit from the ADA? ›

The ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, private businesses, public accommodations, telecommunications and access to state and local government programs. Today, its provisions cover more than 56 million Americans.

Who is the most winningest NFL team? ›

Their NFC North divisional rivals, the Green Bay Packers have recorded the most wins (790) in NFL history. The league's other still-active charter member, the Arizona Cardinals, have recorded the most regular season losses (790), through the end of the 2022 season.

Who has the most Super Bowl losses? ›

The Patriots and Broncos are tied for the most Super Bowl losses (five). The Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, and Jacksonville Jaguars are the four teams to have never appeared in a Super Bowl, although the Browns and Lions both won NFL Championships before the Super Bowl era.

What is the smallest NFL Stadium? ›

MetLife Stadium is the largest NFL stadium with a standard capacity of 82,500. Soldier Field is the smallest NFL stadium with a standard capacity of 61,500.

How much money does Super Bowl bring to city? ›

In 2019, economist Victor Matheson went public with claims that the Super Bowl brings in between $30 and $130 million—much less than $300 to $500 million that the NFL and host committees claim.

Who is singing at the Super Bowl 2023? ›

Chris Stapleton Sings the National Anthem at Super Bowl 2023 – Billboard.

Are NFL balls reused? ›

After the week of play if the ball is lightly used or in good condition it is kept by the team and used as a practice ball. If the ball has significant wear from either the game or week of practice than it is usually either disposed of, donated, or auctioned off. The Super Bowl is the marquee sporting event of the USA.

Do pigs get footballs? ›

For decades, players and fans have referred to the ball as a “pigskin,” despite the fact that the ball is not made from the skin of a pig. Why? Today's footballs are made with cowhide. The Wilson Sporting Goods plate in Ada, Ohio, has made the official Super Bowl football for every game.

Are NFL footballs made in China? ›

So Wilson, which manufactures all the NFL footballs -- and makes them in America, not in China -- can't make the Super Bowl balls until after the two conference championship games.

What were old footballs filled with? ›

The first properly made ball was simply a pig or sheep's bladder, inflated by good old fashioned lung power and knotted at the end. A leather casing would then be fitted around the bladder to provide durability.

Are NFL footballs handmade? ›

For those who think the footballs are automated at a factory, guess again, they are, in fact, handmade. Andy Wentling, of Wilson footballs, says their company is putting together about a 120 balls for gameday. “We've been the official football for the NFL since 1941,” he said.

Can soccer balls get wet? ›

It also made the ball playable even on wet weather. The outer cover of modern soccer balls are made of synthetic leather for enhanced water resistance. Synthetic leather (coated with polyurethane) is the material for soccer balls used at professional and top-flight level because it has the best feel for the ball.

Was the ADA successful? ›

The ADA tool was effective less than 60 percent of the time overall with a range of 33 percent to 60 percent failure rate to accommodate effectively. An individual's tolerance for the failure of other tools may vary, but reliance on the ADA is likely diminished due to this low level of reliability.

What was the impact of the ADA? ›

People with disabilities could no longer be denied access to jobs, schools and transportation. The law also included private places that are generally open to the public, such as restaurants and movie theaters. The law had a huge impact on the lives of millions of Americans.

How many people has the ADA helped? ›

We believe in the free flow of information

It has challenged discrimination and helped remove many barriers so that roughly 56.7 million Americans with disabilities can lead independent lives.

How did the ADA improve people's lives? ›

The ADA prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment. It also ensured disabled people have equal access to government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation.

What are the two major concepts of the ADA? ›

The ADA is based on four core concepts: disability, otherwise qualified, reasonable accommodation, and direct threat.

Who is protected under ADA? ›

Who Is Protected Under the ADA? The ADA protects qualified individuals with disabilities. An individual with a disability is a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits major life activities; has a record of such an impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment.

Can you get money from ADA? ›

There are also instances where a plaintiff will file a lawsuit under the ADA and the defendant will quickly settle the suit with a cash payment. This can often be cheaper than going through the legal process and losing, resulting in legal fees and the cost of remedying the violation.

What states have the highest disability benefits? ›

States That Pay out the Most in SSI Benefits

The highest paying states for SSI benefits as of 2022 are New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, New Hampshire and Maryland. The average disability benefit per month for 2022 for an individual on SSI benefits is $841 per month.

Who is most affected by ADA? ›

Whom does the ADA affect? The ADA affects any business or institution, public or private, that employs 15 or more people or offers goods or services to the public. That means virtually every public or private entity in the US must make some accommodations for the people with disabilities whom they serve or employ.

Has a black QB ever won a Super Bowl? ›

In the end Kansas City won 38-35 and Mahomes won his second Super Bowl championship in a brilliant six-year career. For neutral fans and for students of history, the performances of Mahomes and Hurts extended a legacy and wrote yet another grand chapter in the history of Black quarterbacks.

What NFL coach has the most wins? ›

Don Shula holds the current records for regular season wins at 328 and combined regular and postseason wins at 347. Bill Belichick holds the record for postseason wins at 31 and is the active leader in regular season and combined wins at 298 and 329, respectively.

Who is the number one best NFL player of all time? ›

Jerry Rice

Who are the most loyal NFL fans? ›

A Green Bay Packers fan base leads all NFL fan bases as of 2022, followed by the Patriots, Cowboys, the Eagles, and a Steeler fan base. Most NFL fans would agree with this result, with the Eagles possibly being an exception.

What is the loudest stadium in the NFL? ›

How loud is it at Arrowhead Stadium? In 2014, Arrowhead Stadium set a Guinness World Record for its stadium noise against the New England Patriots. The fans were so loud that they registered the sound at 142.2 decibels.

Who is America's favorite team in the NFL? ›

The Cowboys were the most searched-for NFL team over the past five years, according to Google trends data from 2017-2022 shared with USA TODAY. Even though Dallas has not won a Super Bowl in that timeframe, being the most search-for team bolsters their status as "America's team" heading into the 2022-23 season.

Where do they make the NFL footballs in Ohio? ›


Hallmarks of a tradition that dates back more than 70 years. More than 700,000 footballs a year have been handmade in Ada, Ohio, by Wilson's talented craftsmen and women since 1955. They've built footballs for Super Bowl champs, MVPs and Hall of Famers.

Where are NFL footballs manufactured? ›

Wilson Sporting Goods said around 120 footballs will be used in Super Bowl LVII, WDTN reported. All NFL footballs are made by hand in the Wilson Football Factory in Ada, Ohio.

Where is the official NFL game ball made? ›

Each “The Duke” NFL football is hand-produced in Wilson's Ada, OH factory. From the cutting and stamping to sewing and lacing, each “The Duke” football is the combined effort of nearly two-dozen expert craftspeople. Each football starts with four panels of genuine cowhide leather, tanned in nearby Chicago.

What and city makes all the NFL footballs? ›

The leather for every single NFL football, including the ones that were used in Sunday's Super Bowl, was crafted by members of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1546 who work at Horween Leather Co. in Chicago.


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