After the music, the overhead lights revealed beer and energy drink cans strewn along the floor amid puddles, popcorn and the odd container of nacho remnants.
The overnight Casper Events Center crews began to clean and convert the venue from a concert into courts for last week’s high school volleyball tournament.
The Casper Events Center hosts monster truck shows and Broadway musicals, rodeos and rock concerts — like that night’s Bret Michaels Hometown Heroes Tour show.
Before a concert arena could become volleyball courts, the tour set had to be loaded for its next stop, equipment stored and the floor scrubbed clean. Workers mopped spills through the stands and set up courts in time for team warmups.
Most of the 15 workers that night on the venue’s conversion and cleaning crew worked 10 hours, according to the Casper Events Center director of marketing Kendra Ziler.
Many people don’t realize the strategy and overnight labor that goes into changing over from one event in time for the next, operations manager Matt Hinds said.
“You tear down one, you set up the next one,” he said. “And it’s not just a snap your fingers, it’s done. There’s a lot of physical work that goes on with these things. The current event, so to speak, is in the way of the upcoming event. We’ve got to get that one out to get the next one in.”
As soon as the audience left shortly after 11 p.m., the workers began to separate the interlocking chairs in front of the stage. Stage hands helped the tour crew to break down the set, wrap cables and haul gear to the semis.
A forklift beeped behind the stage. A push broom left trails of spilled liquid along its wake through the debris. Cans clinked along the cement and the smells of beer and popcorn mingled in the air.
The time constraint is the driving force behind the pace, Hinds said.
“We have a good crew, and they take pride in their work,” he said. “Part of the adrenaline and the drive is meeting that deadline, knowing the importance of all that, the work they’re doing.”
Workers slid chairs aside to make room for others to lower lights that hung over the first few rows of seating.
Some racked the 990 chairs on carts 50 at a time, while others rolled them away and returned with empty carts. The operations manager in charge of tear-down, Cody Lawson, raced along a row of seats as he separated them one by one.
“Speed record!” he called and laughed as he raised a fist in the air at the end.
Within an hour after the show ended, the chairs were gone. With push brooms and snow shovels, workers corralled and scooped trash into bins. A large percentage of containers for the 3,400 beers, 1,700 liquor and wine drinks and 1,200 non-alcoholic beverages Ziler tallied appeared to lay on the floor.
“Nothing but a good time,” one worker sang — a line from Michaels’ concert finale chorus — as he returned his shovel. A worker cruised in a riding floor scrubber while others picked up trash through the stands.
By 12:30 a.m., the cement floor began to shine as the scrubber worked. A woman began collapsing the first 10 rows of seats along the south wall so they could be retracted for more floor space.
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Lawson used string lines to mark where to set up the first volleyball court. He never stopped working as he called directions and answered questions.
“He’s got weight in his hand, move a little faster, please,” he called up to a crew member mopping the stands ahead of a coworker who carried a safety rail.
Workers continued to clear the stage, and a few worked on rigging high above.
“It’s a team effort, Hinds said, “almost like watching an episode of ‘M.A.S.H.’ It might be chaotic; it might look crazy; but we’re all rocking it out, you know, doing our thing.”
Managers brief their crews on the night’s plan with team delegations and order of tasks before each tear-down, Hinds said.
Lawson meticulously plans the shifts with the timing and transitions between various tasks, according to director of operations Paul Hanson.
“He loves math problems and is a champ at Tetris,” he said in the email.
The crews last week would follow a sequence to ready the venue for tournament organizers who’d arrive in the morning. The staging, too, has to come down in a certain order so the tour crew can set up at the next stop.
The crew leaders often strategically position equipment in hidden spots for faster changeovers. Crates containing the court floor pieces, for example, waited during the concert on opposite ends of the arena for easy reach as floor space became available, Hanson said in the email.
Ziler, the marketing director, earlier had explained some battle-like tactics: “They can start attacking one side, while this side is getting cleaned up. And they can get this side built and then move their way in.”
Once the tour trucks leave, workers would remove the stage so they could build the rest of the courts, Hanson said in the email.
While his crew took a break, Lawson and Casper Events Center general manager Brad Murphy began the first volleyball court in a clear section of the floor Lawson had marked off earlier. He checked a map he’d made as he arranged stacks of blue and grey tiles over felt before they started to snap the squares together.
The changeover wasn’t the only one last week. For KING & COUNTRY performed the night before, and each changeover brings its own challenges.
For back-to-back shows, supervisors try strategize plans like stage size, height and seating configurations while meeting needs for each event, Hanson said.
The better operations run backstage, the better the experiences for the attendees and performers, Hinds said.
The Casper Events Center was the smallest venue for last week’s concerts, as well as the upcoming Cher concert. The venue is bringing in larger acts and making a name for itself, Ziler said. The overnight conversion and cleaning crew and other behind-the-scenes teams are a part of that, she said.
“And because of the details, and doing things like cleaning up the confetti, people remember that. Promoters remember that,” she said. “When you’re good to work with, they remember that, and they’re going to say, ‘Well, Casper might not be the biggest-selling and make us the most money, but they’re professionals, and they’re good to work with and we’re going to go back there.’ And so a lot about relationships.”
Follow arts & culture reporter Elysia Conner on twitter @erconner