12-hour days common on game days

Eric Monson

Eric Monson

Rarely, when entering the confines of Frost Arena, Coughlin-Alumni Stadium or any of the other fields, courts or arenas that comprise SDSU’s athletic facilities, does one stop to think of the amount of effort spent staging a successful event. Watching a game, fans can witness and appreciate the hard work and talent of the athletes, but what of those behind the scenes?

To stage a single athletic event at Frost Arena requires weeks of preparation by the SDSU Athletic Department, specifically the promotions department. The advertising seen on the scoreboard in Frost Arena must be secured and planned one year in advance. Running the system of scoreboards and public address systems requires skill, knowledge and timing. The advertising, announcements, highlight videos, special promotions, introductions and anything else that happens before the game, after the game and any time a whistle blows is meticulously scripted weeks in advance.

The ringmaster of this circus is head of promotions Micah Grenz, who completely scripts every athletic event, unable to leave anything to chance.

“There’s a lot of people that show up for a game and think we just put all this together today, when in reality we’ve been planning this for a year,” Grenz said.

During the game, Grenz works as part-time DJ and full-time director, managing the roughly fifteen people needed to put on an event. Under Grenz’s direction, the game works like a well-oiled machine, running quietly in the background, going completely unnoticed.

Grenz is happy that what he and the others do garners little attention.

“If no one notices we’re here that means we’ve done a good job,” he said.

Although Grenz prepares for perfection, it remains difficult to attain.

“We’re looking to make this event as good as it can be ? we haven’t had a perfect event yet this year. We may never have one, but perfection is our goal,” he said.

New this year to Frost Arena and Coughlin-Alumni Stadium are the $3 million scoreboards built and installed by Daktronics.

A 6-by-12-foot room located in the Athletic Department offices in the HPER Center houses the brains and controls that run all the operations for both the scoreboards at Frost and Coughlin. From this small room, five people control the behemoth scoreboard at Coughlin, the equally impressive center-hanging scoreboard in Frost Arena, the east and west side boards in Frost and the scoreboard in front of the scorer’s table.

On the west wall of the control room stand two 6-feet-high computer towers, and located to the north are three computer monitors. Dominating the two normal sized monitors is the 40-inch LCD monitor mounted in the middle that displays everything portrayed on the scoreboard. Under these monitors rest all the controls needed to operate everything short of a space shuttle launch.

The man with his fingers on the plethora of buttons is Eric Ray, a Daktronics employee who the University pays Daktronics to provide. Ray, as game-day producer, is responsible for managing everything from the “I got a fever and the only prescription is more cow bell” skit, to inserting the proper amount of delegated advertising.

Of the upgraded scoreboards and computer systems, Ray said, “I think people here, the fans and the Athletic Department, have been really happy with what we’ve done? it’s a major upgrade and now that people can see what we can do, it’s been nothing but positives and we look forward to the coming year.”

Entering the cramped control room during a game is akin to entering mission control. It requires five people working with timing and precision to operate the various controls during the game. With most of the space in the room occupied by whirring machinery, five people is all that space will allow.

The control room provides a hands-on learning environment for both Daktronics employees and SDSU students. A new class at SDSU requires students to spend a certain amount of time in the control room. Daktronics employees volunteer their time to learn more about the products they make and sell. Working with Ray and those from SDSU and Daktronics are the husband and wife duo of Kelly and Tami Watson, who work as director and technical director.

This year has been a work-inprogress for Grenz, Ray and the rest who work to stage an athletic event at SDSU. March 3 was the final home basketball game for the season.

Grenz and his team began 12 hours before the game started and did not finally walk out the door until after 11:00 p.m. No sooner had the final buzzer sounded than thoughts of improvements moved to next year.

“Next year will be a lot better than this year and hopefully the year after that will be even better? we’re always trying to improve,”