STATE COLLEGE – A typical basketball game at the Bryce Jordan Center requires a small army of staffers to ensure the experience is first-rate for all who attend.
Saturday, that workload will double.
The Bryce Jordan Center will host No. 13 Penn State's basketball game against Northwestern at noon, and after a brief turnaround, it will serve as the site for the No. 2 Penn State versus No. 3 Ohio State dual wrestling meet at 7:30 p.m.
“This is going to be the first time we’re going to do this,” Bryce Jordan Center general manager Al Karosas said of hosting basketball and wrestling on the same day.
Last Saturday's home basketball game against Minnesota had a crowd of 15,261, the program's first sellout in nearly a decade. Penn State's wrestling dual with Michigan last February drew 15,701. In 2018, Penn State's dual with Iowa brought 15,998 fans to the Bryce Jordan Center, the indoor NCAA dual meet record.
Staffing requirements at the Bryce Jordan Center on any given basketball game day is decided by many factors. Expected attendance, concession needs, and other factors are weighed when determining how to staff an event.
The changeover, however, is where the staff’s mettle will be tested this weekend.
“Our event staff, our food and beverage, our maintenance and operation, it’s pretty consistent – they’re going to have a high number of people,” Karosas said. “The intricacy is on the changeover.”
With the basketball game expected to last just over two hours, the staff at the Bryce Jordan Center has a bevy of tasks to undergo to ensure the venue is set to accommodate the thousands of fans who will pack it for the wrestling meet.
Scrubbing the 15,261-seat arena from the noon basketball crowd with just limited time to spare is just one of many components that will go into readying the venue in time.
Concessions have to be restocked, parking attendants will scurry to accommodate drivers, workers will diligently work transform the hardwood into a suitable wrestling platform and appropriate lighting fixtures will be installed.
Karosas said his team has gotten a head start on the preparation.
“We have to build the stage, we have to completely revamp the chairs,” Karosas said. “So there are a lot of other smaller logistics that are involved, and it extends to even (Wednesday).”
If hosting basketball and wrestling on the same day isn’t challenging enough, there’s another factor that further adds to the controlled chaos.
Award-winning, country-western artist Luke Combs hosted a sold-out concert at the Bryce Jordan Center on Thursday when his “What You See Is What You Get” tour rolled into State College.
“Whatever we’re able to do, we’re working on it – that’s for sure,” Karosas said.
Karosas laughed when asked how much his hours increased this week. He noted it’s the busiest two-week stretch of the year.
“We’re going through a stretch where we’re going from a sold-out Luke Combs show (Thursday) to two very full events on Saturday for basketball and wrestling,” he said. “We have another great event with the Lady Lions on Sunday, and then we have another basketball game early in the week next week which will be highly attended. Then we go right into the Penn State dance marathon.”
Parking lots for both events open an hour-and-a-half before they commence, but Penn State Department of Transportation marketing and communication specialist Brooke McCord advised attendees to add 30 minutes to that hour-and-a-half time frame.
“We’re encouraging fans for both events to come early (and) try to allow more time for traveling because there are going to be a lot of people trying to get to the Bryce Jordan Center on Saturday,” McCord said. “There’s also going to be a bunch of students at both events, so just watch out for pedestrians and be careful while driving around the Bryce Jordan Center area.”
McCord said her department will provide real-time alerts and advisories on Saturday via its Facebook and Twitter accounts. It will also publish a post on its website on Thursday evening with travel information.
While planning and execution for Saturday’s two-sport day at the Bryce Jordan Center has and will be tedious, Karosas said the inconvenience is more than worth it, as it allows Penn State’s student-athletes the opportunity to enjoy a first-class experience.
“The thing that I’m most excited about is to showcase and market our talented student-athletes,” he said. “We showcase the building a lot to a lot of different types of fans that come in for whatever type of entertainment they like. But I always get the most fulfillment when I see our student-athletes get some recognition they deserve.”