LONGMONT — His 9-year-old grandson in one hand, an ice-cold beer in the other, Ward Nunn watched the St. Louis Cardinals games in the scorching summer sun.
Five minutes later, Nunn’s beer was warm, and he lamented the loss of his frosty lager to his grandson, Tony Woods.
Twenty-five years later, Woods, now an inventor, has solved the problem of the baking brew at the ballpark.
“For four years, I put wristbands over my cups,” Woods said of his trips to Rockies games. “Last year I looked around, and nobody had anything to keep their beer cold.”
Woods wanted to make a neoprene beer huggy, he said, one that would hold the disposable cups from the stadium. With the help of his girlfriend, Jill Kurnik, and his friend Mike Barrowman, the Stadium Cup Holder was born.
They made prototypes and a presentation for the product.
Then, in September of last year, Woods had a chance meeting with Lee Buxton, the vice president of marketing for Coors Brewing.
Woods was doing air conditioning and duct work on Buxton’s new home, and the two struck up a conversation.
It turned out that as young men, both had come to Colorado the same way, on a motorcycle with little but the clothes on their backs.
Woods then retrieved a Stadium Cup Holder prototype from his truck.
Buxton liked the product and took a few prototypes to work with him.
But Woods wasn’t out of the proverbial woods yet.
“Waiting is the worst thing,” Woods said. “I kept wondering, ‘Am I the only guy who thinks this is a good idea?’ Maybe I was just on the same field as all the other people who had invented stuff and went nowhere.”
He heard back from Buxton on Thanksgiving, and soon afterward the folks at Coors hooked him up with the Kolder Corp., with whom he signed an exclusive licensing agreement.
Woods says the Stadium Cup Holder can be seen at professional basketball games this year, and football and baseball next season.
Barrowman said he remembers when he first saw what eventually became the Stadium Cup Holder.
“It was at a softball game in July; it must have been 90 degrees outside,” Barrowman said.
Woods filled a cup with ice water, then slipped the neoprene cover over it. Barrowman thought the idea was clever, but didn’t think it was great until later.
“We just finished a softball game, and Tony returned to his truck, maybe four hours after he had put the cup in there. I don’t know how hot it was inside, but there was still ice and cold water in that cup,” he said.
Barrowman was on board.
“At the beginning we kicked around the idea of doing this ourselves,” Barrowman said. “We re-evaluated our approach and found a way to do this that wouldn’t cost a lot of money out of pocket.”
This is just what Woods needs, with his Longmont business, Homerun Heating and AirConditioning, facing slow sales in the faltering economy.
But the Stadium Cup Holder is only the beginning, Woods said.
He also invented a duct pinching tool for use in the heating and air-conditioning business.
And when he was 17 years old, he invented a magnetic finger tip glove by wedging a magnet into the index finger of his work gloves.
Only recently has he begun to pursue marketing the glove.
Woods said he hopes to make enough money from royalty fees from his inventions to pay the mortgage for his house.
But for every gem of an idea, Woods has some outright awful ones, Kurnik said.
“He invented the indoor slide,” Kurnik said, laughing.
The indoor slide, described as a super-smooth slab of sheet metal, fits over the stairs in a home. But there was a problem.
“It was so slippery, and he wanted me to try it out,” Kurnik said. “I slid down and about broke my tailbone. He thought it was a liability, so that didn’t work out.”
But Woods thinks his ideas might be enough to support his family — Kurnik and their two children, Paris, 4, and Tagger McGwire, 4 months — for the rest of their lives.
“Being an inventor is my destiny,” Woods said.
He said he wouldn’t have gotten where he is without his grandfather.
The Stadium Cup Holder was invented to solve his grandfather’s problem of warm beer on a hot day.
Woods’ grandfather died two years ago.
“I wish I could have invented it in 1975,” Woods said. “If this thing takes off, I have made millions of beer drinkers happy across the country. My grandfather would be proud.”
Kate Martin can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 389, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.