Thousands attend open house at helmet maker Riddell

By Michael Fitzpatrick

Approximately 4,000 people – some waiting as long as 30 minutes to get inside – toured the new Riddell facility during a public open house of the football helmet maker’s new North Ridgeville home May 21.

Riddell moved from Elyria into the 347,205-square-foot facility on Center Ridge Road a couple of months ago. North Ridgeville was able to woo the company in part because of a tax incentive package. The new plant, which took less than a year to complete, takes care of painting and polishing the helmets, many of which end up protecting NFL and college football players. The shell of the helmets are made in Twinsburg.

The event had the feel of a football tailgate, as visitors dined on free hot dogs and a drum corps played in the parking lot. The steady stream of visitors was given tours of the facility, which features a state-of-the-art paint room, an employee workout area, and a gleaming break room that offers employees a variety of snacking options.

“This is like the Taj Mahal compared to the other one,” said Jim Brady, an 18-year Riddell employee, and one of the company volunteers staffing the open house. “We were talking in my department, it’s almost like we changed jobs. It’s like we started at a new company.”

“Most of what we do is reconditioning. Helmets get torn apart, cleaned, sanitized and repaired,” he added.

Dave Larkins of LaGrange came out for the tour and ended up with an armful of football pennants, which were given away as prizes to attendees. Larkins is familiar with Riddell through his involvement with youth football leagues.

“It’s a nice place,” he said.

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