French sporting goods manufacturer Kipsta says ‘new balls, please’.

At a sparkling campus on the outskirts of Lille, just ten minutes from where the train line from the Channel Tunnel unwinds its way south, stands an incubator of sporting technology – and a mission to revolutionise the world.

Kipsta’s eight-hectare campus – carved out of an old bus depot and a former brewery – is stacked with courts of all shapes and sizes, indoors and out, serving both as places to play and as laboratories to observe and learn.

Behind the interior doors, an army of technological boffins transform the insights into 3D reality with design and functionality their primary goals.

The Kipstadium campus covers 13 sports

The Kipstadium campus covers 13 sports

Basketball is among 13 sports served but also their eldest passion.

“It was the first sport we worked with a technology partner,” brand director Cédric Bienaime tells MVP. “We found a very quick start with the team in Gravelines-Dunkerque in (French League) Pro A and then Boulognes. Plus four in Pro B.”

Their in-house facilities are an attraction by themselves. San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will host a clinic here during September’s EuroBasket while others of all levels come here to pit their skills in practice. Over 30000 people, local schools included, will arrive through the doors during its first year, they hope.

The company, owned by retailer Decathlon, covers all bases in basketball from baskets to shoes to men’s and women’s match balls. And in their latest Wizzy model, a Size 5 product aimed at kids, the architecture has been drawn up with simplicity in mind.

“Wizzy was born out of feedback from kids that (basketball) was difficult,” product chief Nicolas Fillion declares. “Kids found the ball too heavy and it was hard to throw.

“Plus they were afraid they might get hit and that it would hurt because it’s hard. So we focused on lightness and softness in our basketballs based on feedback from parents and children.”

Kipsta balls

Hence, extra depth in the channels and additional texture via hexagonal shapes to add grip. Plus bright appealing colours.

“It is an example of a pure academic product – certified for championship use by FIBA,” Fillion adds.

“It has very specific components – it’s lighter and less traumatic because we removed part of the rubber to lower the weight by 20%.”

Yet it is aimed at the many, not the few.

“What’s interesting is we sell it for less than 30 Euros. That certification usually pushes up the prize but we have kept ours the same.”

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