March 3, 2001 2 p.m. - 8 p.m.
As the clock counts down the closing seconds of the last home game of the mens basketball season, a crowd of about 75 people, mostly students, is poised to surge onto the floor of the Mullins Center. They arent celebrating a UMass win. (The Minutemen are losing to St. Bonaventure 59-66.) But they are ready to bring the house down.
The changeover crew is under the gun today. With the basketball game ending at 2 p.m., and the opening faceoff of the hockey teams season-ender against New Hampshire scheduled for 8, the crew charged with converting the Mullins Center from a court to a rink has six hours to do its work, and little margin for error.
Iven Allen, operations coordinator at the Mullins, has overseen this transformation many, many times. During January and February, the height of both the basketball and hockey seasons, Allen and his staff routinely rearrange the arena three or four times a week. But this is the first time in two years the crew has done a double set up for two games in two sports in one day. For a normal changeover, Allen calls in about 40 of his full complement of just over a hundred workers. Given todays tight schedule, hes nearly doubled the crew.
The last fans straggle out of the arena. Thom Hannum and the hoop band put an exclamation point on the afternoon with their rambunctious end-of-the-show rendition of Big Noise from Winnetka. The changeover crew, in their matching blue shirts with EVENT STAFF in bold yellow lettering on the backs, goes to work.
From a vantage point high up in section G, theyre an army of ants industriously dismantling a picnic lunch. On the erstwhile court, chairs and tables that served as team benches and media seating are folded, stacked on long carts, and rolled away to storage. Seats and risers behind each basket are pushed back. Goals are collapsed, accordion style, and hauled off with a forklift. A platoon of workers armed with brooms, mops, and dustpans spreads through the stands, sweeping and cleaning under each of the 9,500 seats.
The parquet basketball court unravels at the edges as one after another of its 248 four-by-eight-foot sections, each weighing 150 pounds, is lifted up and carted away. The ice deck a carbon-fiber insulating material that protects the inch-thick sheet of ice that remains under the arena floor through all its permutations is increasingly visible around the perimeter.
Standing at mid-court in the midst of all this orderly activity is Iven Allen, his shoulder-length hair falling from beneath a well-worn baseball cap, a clipboard tucked loosely under one arm.
You two look like you need something to do, he shouts at a pair of students awaiting orders. Bring those dashers in! Dashers are the waist-high sections of steel-and-polymer wall that encircle the ice, providing a foundation for the sheets of hockey glass through which spectators watch the action. Even as one team is carting away sections of parquet, another is bolting dashers into place.
Behind us the basketball court is quickly becoming history. The few remaining sections of wooden floor disappear. The last dashers are locked down to form the expanded circumference of a hockey rink; the thick, heavy panes of hockey glass are being hoisted on top. The five hundred sheets of ice deck are scooped up and put away, and ice preparation begins. By 5:30 after several passes by the Zamboni and some detailed attention to trouble spots the rink is ready, with a comfortable two hours to spare before the UMass and UNH teams take the ice for their pregame skate.
Kicking back with some Mullins-provided pizza before heading out for a little down-time, crew members Stephanie ODonal and Jason DOrazio talk about their day. ODonal, a sport management sophomore, spent most of the afternoon stacking folding-chairs and cleaning hockey glass. Its been tiring but not really that hard, she says, not a hint of weariness in her voice.
DOrazio, a junior in computer science, was on duty during the basketball game so hes already put in six hours today. He expects to work three more hours after the hockey match, when hell join a smaller crew for yet another changeover. The rock band Godsmack is scheduled to play at the Mullins tomorrow night, and the crew must have the ice covered and a stage built in time for the bands trucks to unload sound equipment the next morning.
He too seems little effected by a long day. I really didnt think wed get it done this quickly today, says DOrazio. But there were a lot of people working.
In this brief period of calm in the empty arena, Allen surveys the fresh ice glistening under bright lights. The changeover is complete, but his workday, which began at 8 a.m., is not. He too will be back at work after the hockey game, directing the changeover from rink to rock concert hall.
Fatigue tugging at his long face, Allen says hell probably work until 2 or 3 a.m. and return by 7 in the morning when the Godsmack trucks pull up with their gear.
Yeah, its a tough day, he says. But I guess I wouldnt be here if I didnt love it.