CI Sports Report with Elise Menaker: BRG Sports

BRG Sports in Rantoul designs and develops sports equipment and accessories.  Two of its main productions: bike helmets and collectible football helmets.  WAND's Elise Menaker got a behind the scenes look at how these products are made in her Central Illinois Sports Report.

Inside 815,000 square feet, or 18.5 football fields, five operations at BRG Sports.  Two of those include producing four and a half million bike helmets a year and half a million collectible football helmets.

“Not the on-field helmets but the ones that the real enthusiasts have in their offices or go get autographs and things of that nature,” explained Lewis Hornsby General Manager of the Rantoul facility.

For over 40 years BRG Sports has had an operation in Rantoul, but it's been loyal, hard-working employees that have kept the business growing in Central Illinois even when it considered moving.

“We scoured the country,” Hornsby said.  “We considered many, many options all over the country and really it came down to our people and maintaining the experience level and the quality of employee we've always had here in Rantoul.”

Before merging operations, BRG Sports had around 325 employees with an average tenure of around 17 years.  Today 450 workers test, assemble, ship and store Bell, Ridell, Giro and Blackburn products.

“Everything from professionals to amateurs to the enthusiast we've got the bike helmets your little toddlers as they grow up skateboarding, biking wearing our helmets,” Hornsby described.  “If you turn the Tour de France on, you'll see all of our Giro and Bell brands displayed from the helmets to the shoes.”

Recently it's been the “Frozen”-themed children's bike helmet that's in high demand.  It's the product BRG staff was making on this particular day, adding a shell, padding, decorative outwear and packaging essentials.  In just two minutes and eight seconds your bike helmet is assembled and ready to be shipped to your home or a retailer near you.  A quick, efficient process.  But bike helmets aren't the only product they make here at BRG Sports.

The creation of collectible football helmets is a much slower, precise process that takes a good eye, concentration and, “Oh it just takes a little skill, a little hand skill, a little eye and hand coordination,” according to Frank Ball a Painter at BRG Sports.

He has been a painter for 12.5 years.

“It's just a great place to be and a great facility, and I'm just happy to be a part of it,” he said.

In just one day, he'll paint around 1,200 helmets for maybe 12 or 13 different NFL or college teams.  This is the beginning of the Panther's helmet for those Carolina superfans.  In the end, from Spider Man to Frozen, BRG Sports is protecting you in style.

Hornsby says the same technology to produce the professional bike helmets is used to produce the amateur bike helmets like for you and me, and soon the company will be adding the C-Preme brand to its list of products.  Most recently, BRG Sports won the economic development impact award from the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation.  If interested, BRG Sports is currently hiring.

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