Dragon Seats heated cooling sports benches win more partnerships

With a weather app in one hand and an NFL schedule in the other, Franklin Floyd’s weekend can change like the wind — literally.

Whether it’s a Nor’easter in Foxboro or a sweltering Miami heat, Floyd’s phone will ring and a plea will be made, and a fleet of high-tech climate control banks will be deployed across the country. In other words, the NFL is on a collision course with winter — and Florida’s endless summer — and now more than ever, the solution is Dragon Seats.

“I think that’s our really exciting part of the season,” says Floyd, the company’s CEO, who has rarely met a player who hasn’t thanked him. “November is when we really, really crank it up. That’s probably when we’re valued the most.”

Any Sunday – or take this Sunday, for example – Dragon Seat’s latest iteration of heated benches will be at Buffalo’s Highmark Stadium for the Bills-Vikings matchup, while its cooling benches will support the Cleveland Browns at Miami’s searing Hard Rock Stadium. Each venue will be staffed with two Dragon Seat technicians should outside temperatures get too extreme, and another set of technicians will oversee Green Bay’s new fifth generation heated benches for Packers Cowboys.

Not to mention the 17 college games this Saturday that will feature hybrid benches at schools like Texas, Penn State, Ohio State, Baylor and Michigan. Urgent SOS calls later in the week based on emerging weather fronts could potentially push that number to over 20.

“Phone calls, emails, texts have been quite busy for the last few weeks… with the weather becoming more of a factor,” says Floyd.

The company made famous by Jerry Jones last season, and seen by some as a fad, is nothing like that. Dragon Seat technology is now used full-time by around 20 NFL franchises, although teams like the Washington Commanders are in dire need of an upgrade. And don’t look now, but five or six dome teams could be close to adding hybrid benches as early as next season.

“SoFi Stadium can actually get cold,” says Floyd. “And the dome of New Orleans is getting hot.”

Their technology was developed 20 years too late to save Green Bay’s infamous 1967 Ice Bowl (when the Packers beat the Cowboys for the NFL championship in -13 degrees). But at least it’s there for Packers Cowboys in 2022, thanks to Floyd’s father Frank, who has turned his Cleveland heating and air conditioning business into an NFL must.

Pictured left to right: Franklin Floyd, CEO of Dragon Seat, Clarke Jones, Strategy Director of Dragon Seat.

Pictured left to right: Franklin Floyd, CEO of Dragon Seat, Clarke Jones, Strategy Director of Dragon Seat.

One day in the 1980s, Frank Floyd was approached by a Browns equipment manager who was curious if Frank’s mom-and-pop company could build heated benches for the team’s old Municipal Stadium and practice facility. Frank brainstormed with a group of engineers and developed the first iteration of a seven-seat heated bench powered by 120-volt portable heaters and clean-burning natural gas or propane. It blew away the league’s old-school players’ benches, which, believe it or not, were powered open flames.

Brown’s quarterback Bernie Kosar was visibly excited at the time. But when the team had a sudden competitive advantage, it wasn’t for long. The NFL had – and still has – a rule of justice that dictates that if the home team benefits from a heated bench, the visiting team must have the exact same product. It wasn’t long before the Browns Division rivals in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati wanted Frank’s seatwarmers at their own venues, and a football sideline was born.

“The Ravens and Tennessee Titans came later [to Cleveland] and were able to experience and benefit from the product for the first time,” says Franklin Floyd, who was part of his father’s Sunday stadium staff as a teenager. “And then they called us and said, ‘Hey, we want these.’ Same in Buffalo and Green Bay etc.”

Word got around quickly, and by the 2000s almost every non-dome cold-weather franchise wanted to participate. A perfect example was the Washington NFL team, which bought an early version of the benches for both sidelines at FedEx Field in the mid-2000s.

The Dragon Seats benches at Hard Rock Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins.

The Dragon Seats benches at Hard Rock Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins.

But under the radar, Dragon Seat technology began to update and evolve as its engineers designed a more ergonomically comfortable bench that retained the elasticity of players’ hamstrings and calves. To match this, they developed sliding heated foot decks that sprayed warm air directly onto the front and back of the players. They also built “hot hat” stations, a place where a player could hang their helmet to keep the inner bladder soft and warm, and drawers full of thermal gloves.

Practical research – e.g talk to players — also shared with the Floyd family that behemoth linemen like the heated benches tepid, while receivers, running backs and defensive backs prefer them blazing hot. As the 2010s transitioned into the 2020s, they created smart benches with wide temperature variability that could be turned up or down. On a typical cold game day, the big man’s bench would be set at 95 degrees and the short man’s bench at 175 degrees.

“We’ve heard from some athletes that the first thing they do when they run out of the tunnel is look to the sidelines to see if our benches are there,” says Franklin Floyd.

The NFL was watching closely, and on a pre-pandemic visit to the league office, Floyd and his father were asked in a perfect world if they could build the opposite of a heated bench: a novel air-conditioned bench. It had almost everything to do with it Miamiwhere Hard Rock Stadium had been remodeled to accommodate a screened canopy only the Dolphins – not the opposing teams – from the sun and humidity of South Florida. That meant the temperature difference on the two sidelines was a drastic and worrying 30 degrees on a sun-drenched Sunday.

“This stadium was built so that the home team is probably the greatest home field advantage in any sport that I’ve seen,” says Franklin.

While Dragon Seats engineers furiously finalized their cooling project, albeit still under the radar, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones blew the company’s cover during the 2021 season. Before a December 12 game against Washington at FedEx Field, the Cowboys received an unsolicited call from Washington’s former home opponents, the Seattle Seahawks, telling them the Dragon Seats were underperforming at FedEx Field.

“Well,” says Franklin, “The Commanders are a customer of ours and we were trying to replace their old equipment that had been there for about 15 years and was long past its useful life. And I’ve talked to a number of people about it [Washington] set about replacing that equipment, but they decided against it.

“There are over 300 pound guys sitting there. Things break, some crack. Our gear, while well built, is not built to last. We’re probably down to our Gen 5 gear at this point and [Washington] Probably our first iteration of our benches from 2008 back. So I would say that they are at the top of our list when it comes to replacing old benches with new devices. In terms of worst form, I would say they top the list.”

So Jones did what Jones does: He ordered Dragon Seats’ latest iteration of heated benches and, in a coup de grace, asked them to brand them with the Cowboys logo. Then, in broad daylight, he had the heated cowboy benches delivered to FedEx Field for the game (no less than overnight). Dallas won, 27-20.

It caused a stir, garnered untold publicity for Dragon Seats and turned other NFL owners’ heads. Sure enough, a few weeks later, the Patriots asked Dragon Seats if they could lease the Nouveau hybrid air-conditioned Benches for their game in Miami on January 9, 2022, complete with Patriot logos. The Dolphins – who bench at home because their touchline is in the shade, meaning the equity rule doesn’t apply – were less than enthusiastic.

But it was a player health and safety issue, which is why the NFL wholeheartedly endorsed the cooling benches. Dragon Seats had tested its climate-controlled seats at Duke University’s Sports Science Institute, where 40 Div. 1 players swallowed CoreTemp capsules, exercised, sat on the benches and watched their core temperatures plummet. The company knew they were on to something.

“We will continue to innovate,” said Clarke Jones, Dragon Seats’ strategy director. “We will always get better. We will continue to listen to the players, to these staff. These are hard working people and we will just keep providing better solutions.”

The seats They shipped 1,200 miles to Miami for this Patriots game were perforated intelligent benches that ejected cold air through the players’ behinds, necks and armpits. An accompanying Misting Bench contained portable 110-volt compressor jets that ejected cold droplets at a pressure of 180-200 psi. There were also electric fans circulating cold forced air, multiple sun visors, and a helmet cooling station. The Dolphins clinched the win 10-7, but Dragon Seats viewed it all as a technological breakthrough.

As a result, Miami has become the company’s consistent fall (and soon-to-be-winter) destination. Back in the 2022 season, Dragon Seats supported the Bills, Vikings and Patriots at the sizzling Hard Rock Stadium and will accompany the Browns there this weekend.

In fact, on September 25th—arguably the proudest day in company history—Dragon Seats has both Bills-Dolphins in Miami (where it was 125 degrees on the Buffalo sidelines and 95 degrees on the Miamis) and Packers-Bucs in Tampa with refrigeration dispatched benches…while supporting the Ravens on the Patriots and the Bengals on the Jets with heated benches. The whole range.

Five teams now lease their latest 2022 hybrid gear full-time for every home game — Buffalo, Carolina, Cleveland, Tennessee and Philadelphia — while Dallas wishes the product existed in 1967.

“I’m pretty sure the players would have been excited to see us at the Ice Bowl,” says Franklin.


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