Behind the scenes, arena crews report few snafus

By David Skolnick

‘We didn’t have any major hiccup,’ the center director says.

YOUNGSTOWN — It was a smooth operation.

That’s what officials with the Chevrolet Centre said about the sold-out boxing card headlined by Kelly Pavlik’s successful middleweight title defense Saturday.

Preparing for the event was hectic for the center’s staff with planning the reason for success, said Brandon Bucar, the facility’s assistant director and its director of facilities.

“Our staff handled these past few days with the utmost professionalism and efficiency,” Bucar said. “The effort by everyone made this event what it was.”

Only minutes after Pavlik thanked his hometown crowd for supporting him, the staff of the center and Top Rank, which promoted the fight and broadcast it on pay-per-view, began the tear-down process.

In less than an hour, most of the 1,600 ringside seats and the ring were removed.

The crews spent about four hours taking down the ring, the overhead lights, the big-screen televisions and removing the seats.

“We didn’t have any major hiccup, and everything ran smoothly,” said Eric Ryan, the center’s executive director. “The only glitch was the mic(rophone) at the end didn’t work.”

After the fight, the in-ring interviews conducted by Top Rank couldn’t be heard inside the center.

Ryan spoke with pride about the facility.

“This is truly what the Chevy Centre was built for,” he said. “No doubt we were a stimulus for the community. It’s a very proud moment.”

It was also a smooth ride preparing for the biggest show in the center’s three-and-a-half history, Bucar said.

The arena was supposed to be ready at 5 p.m. Saturday. The work started a little early and was finished by 4:30 p.m.

“Everything went extremely well and as planned,” Bucar said.

The center’s doors opened at 7 p.m. with the first fight starting at 7:30 p.m.

“It went exactly as planned,” Bucar said. “We handled disputes when the alcohol got a little heavy.”

But no one was kicked out of the building for fighting and there were no arrests.

With all the heat created inside and outside the ring, the center had to turn on its air conditioning unit at 10:30 p.m. That was about 30 minutes before Pavlik’s technical knockout of Marco Antonio Rubio who couldn’t answer the bell after the ninth round.

For most of the show, the staff was able to keep the center cool by opening large doors to let the outside air lower the inside temperature, said Jamie Kelley, the center’s engineer.

But when that failed, the AC was turned on.

“It’s expensive to run” the air conditioning unit, Kelley said. “The outside air is free.”

Employees of Boston Culinary, the company that handles the center’s concessions, didn’t have figures on sales for Saturday’s event.

But they agreed that it was the center’s biggest concession day ever.

There were about 25 free-standing concession stands in addition to the four permanent concession locations. Many of the stands sold beer and hard liquor.

After the crowd cleared out, there were hundreds of empty plastic Miller Lite beer bottles on the arena floor.

“I’m sure we broke our beer record,” Ryan said. “It crushed any number we’ve ever done.”

The fight broke the center’s attendance record with 7,100 tickets.

The previous record was 6,100 for an April 2006 concert by John Mellencamp, Bucar said.

Work began at 8 a.m. today for the next event at the center: a Mahoning Valley Phantoms hockey game that starts at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

“At least we have a little breathing room,” he said.

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