Making Footballs for Super Bowl LI At The Wilson Football Factory

making footballs for the super bowl

Since 1941 every NFL game ball has been made by Wilson, and since 1955 all of those balls have been made in their Ada, Ohio factory. It is the only football specific factory in the world. The NFL is the only major sports league to make their ball in the USA.

Making Footballs for Super Bowl LI

With a production capacity of 4,000 balls a day and over 700,000 footballs a year, it keeps all 120 factory employees busy around the clock. Most of their employees have several generations of factory employees in the family, with decades of experience.

Horween Leather Co. provides the “W” stamped pebbled leather for the balls

The first NFL Super Bowl LI football sits in a bin with other balls to be stamped with the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons names at the Wilson Sporting Goods factory Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, in Ada, Ohio. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast):

Wilson Sporting Goods worker Lloyd Conley cuts leather from the Horween Leather Co. factory into quarter panels for an NFL football on Monday, Jan. 23, 2017 in Ada, Ohio. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast):

An NFL Super Bowl LI football is sewn at the Wilson Sporting Goods factory on Monday, Jan. 23, 2017 in Ada, Ohio. Plant workers use turn-of-last-century sewing machines and other vintage equipment to make about 3,000 footballs per day, cutting, stitching and lacing each by hand. The 25-step process takes about three days to complete, but the pride in craftsmanship is evident in those who work there. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast):

An NFL Super Bowl LI football is laced up at the Wilson Sporting Goods plant on Monday, Jan. 23, 2017 in Ada, Ohio. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast):

Wilson Sporting Goods worker Michelle Burkett throws excess leather from the Horween Leather Co. factory after cutting quarter panels for an NFL football on Monday, Jan. 23, 2017 in Ada, Ohio. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast):

An NFL Super Bowl LI football is lined up to have “New England Patriots” and “Atlanta Falcons” stamped onto the leather at the Wilson Sporting Goods factory on Monday, Jan. 23, 2017 in Ada, Ohio. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast):

Jim Gatchell turns an NFL Super Bowl LI football right side out at the Wilson Sporting Goods factory on Monday, Jan. 23, 2017 in Ada, Ohio. In one of the most physical jobs at the plant, the ball is first placed into a container where it is steamed and then reversed with the use of a steel bar. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast):

The Atlanta Falcons’ NFL Super Bowl LI game ball is finished with the team’s logo affixed to it at the Wilson Sporting Goods factory, Monday, Jan. 23, 2017, in Ada, Ohio. The Falcons will face the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI in Houston, Texas on Feb. 5, 2017. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast):

The New England Patriots’ NFL Super Bowl LI game ball is finished with the team’s logo affixed to it at the Wilson Sporting Goods factory Monday, Jan. 23, 2017, in Ada, Ohio. The Patriots will face the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI in Houston, Texas on Feb. 5, 2017. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast):

Here’s a video about the making of footballs at the Wilson Factory from 2011:

And a feature from the NY Times, Inside a Wilson Football Factory, from 2015:

You can get a tour of the Wilson Football Factory in Ada, Ohio if you so desire. Call 419.634.9901 for all info regarding the Wilson Football factory tour, as details change regularly.

Wilson Football Factory
217 Liberty St.
Ada, OH 45810

all images and captions courtesy of the NFL, Horween Leather and Wilson Sporting Goods