The next time you go to a hockey game or rock concert at your local arena,
remember that it takes a lot of work to pull off this event. Besides attracting
acts to an arena through good marketing, someone also has to set the stage.
That might mean smoothing the ice or plugging electrical guitar and amp cords
into the right outlets. People have to get in and out of the building safely.
The behind-the-scenes person directing and coordinating is the arena facility
In smaller community arenas, this person might do everything from driving
the ice resurfacing unit to handling security.
When Heather Wright was hired as the facility operator for a small ice
skating rink in Arkansas, she drove the Zamboni. She also managed the rink,
taking care of problems as they popped up.
At larger arenas, the facility operator typically oversees a staff of people
who are experts in their particular fields. But the operator is responsible
for the final outcome.
You can't hop into this career without a basic knowledge of building parts.
"You need to understand how a building operates, from air conditioning to
ventilation. You need to know sound and video. You don't need to know every
nut and bolt, but the theory that makes these things work," says Tom Conroy.
He is the facility director at an arena.
Other essential skills, he says, are making on-the-spot decisions and delegating
tasks. "Delegation is critical, and there are building managers who will try
to do it all themselves. It won't work." Another component to a successful
facility manager is being able to empower your employees.
Glenn Menard is the arena facility operator for the New Orleans Arena.
He says the acts may change from rock 'n' roll to sports, but the principles
of the arena business stay the same -- whether you are hosting figure skaters
or NBA players.
Here are some tasks: getting people in and out of the building, handling
ticketing, hiring part-timers for an event, doing the accounting and budgeting
and overseeing security and guest services. "You don't need to know the sport.
You just treat the field of play....You need to know enough to fit their [the
different acts'] needs into your building."
Each day, Menard sits in front of a computer. Knowing how to navigate computer
programs is important. He also says dependability and the ability to listen
to instructions and ask relevant questions are important.
For Terry Piche, knowing the law also comes in handy. "Every day, the rules
are changing....I can tell you clearly that there are more than 40 pieces
of legislation I am responsible for," he says.
Piche is facilities manager for the parks department in his town and president
of a recreation facilities association. Making sure the arena is safe is a
main focus, because if someone trips or slips in the parking lot, they sue,
Another part of the job, he says, is damage control and risk management.
You are the person leaned on when times get tough.
"When the phone rings, you've got to switch directions," he says. "You
have to be flexible and [able to multi-task] and people-oriented."
Don't expect to jump to the top career ladder rung in this industry. It
takes hard work and time. Many of the people running the show have been there
a while, so spots rarely open.
Facility operators may work in an office during normal operating hours.
However, during events, they will be found in the arenas or stadiums.
"The thing someone has to remember when getting into this job is that we
work when everyone else is having fun," says Piche. Literally, while fans
are screaming for the Black Eyed Peas or the Chicago Bulls, you may be tending
to someone's need for first aid or to the act's need for more lighting.
That means tough hours -- nights, weekends and holidays. Being in the office
during regular hours is also necessary. That's when contracts are negotiated
with vendors and acts.
Facility managers work anywhere from 60 to 90 hours per week, especially
during peak sporting seasons.
People with physical limitations would probably be able to do the job at
a larger arena, but not when small repair and driving tasks are involved.
There is a lot of running, bending and tinkering. Wright says the Zamboni
would need to be outfitted for a handicapped person.