#TGW: Ready, Set-up, Go!
Lots goes into GT’s preparation to host Men’s and Women’s ACC Track and Field Championships
The Good word | By Jon Cooper
After a long season, Georgia Tech Men’s and Women’s Track and Field Teams will be rewarded by getting to compete at the 2017 ACC Track and Field Championships on their home track.
When the event kicks off next Friday (the first event is scheduled for 11 a.m.), Yellow Jackets athletes won’t be the only ones excited to get going.
Bryan Elliott also will be at Griffin Track and Field Facility -- or somewhere in the vicinity -- adrenaline-fueled and, ideally, making reality out of dream scenarios he’s carefully laid out.
He won’t be running an event. He’ll be running ALL of them.
“I have been keyed up for this track meet since the beginning of April,” said Elliott, Georgia Tech Associate Director of Facilities and Events. “Legitimately thinking about it at night when I go to bed and then as soon as I wake up in the morning have a new thought about it. We’re excited for sure.
“Every time I walk by there’s always a different perspective on something we can do to improve or get ready for what’s coming,” he added. “‘We need to do that,’ or ‘These guys did this and I think that would really work well for us,’ or ‘I’m looking at the track from the south side versus the north side and from that perspective, I noticed that the GT has a weird light when the sun is on it. Maybe we can tweak that somehow.’”
The ACCs will be part of a special weekend, as right next door to the track, Georgia Tech Women’s Tennis will host an NCAA Tournament Regional. It’s the continuation of a spring that has made the corner of Fowler and 10th the place to be -- Tech Men’s and Women’s Basketball hosted six games combined at McCamish Pavilion on their way to the NIT and WNIT Championship Games and Saturday saw Spring Commencement at McCamish. All this is in addition to McCamish becoming the home arena of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream this summer, then there’s Bobby Dodd Stadium serving as the home for the MLS’ Atlanta United FC in its inaugural season – it has held three matches and is scheduled to host six more through August.
Fortunately, Elliott is not new at this. He has a decade of experience working various stages of events. He worked at the Greensboro Coliseum, which held a pair of ACC Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments, the American National Figure Skating Championship. He’s also worked on Conference USA Tennis and C-USA Softball, then, while at Georgia State, handled cross country and women’s soccer championships. Since arriving at Georgia Tech in December, 2015, he’s been game day coordinator for men’s basketball and men’s and women’s track and field. The 2017 T&F ACC’s mark his first event as primary coordinator for an ACC Championship.
Being primary coordinator means plenty of responsibilities, responsibilities which have already begun. It’s a dizzying array that takes into account the most minute of details.
“Something as specific as installing the correct 50-amp outlet receiver that ESPN needs -- making sure that it’s a two-pin, three-cable-specific wire that needs to go into specific locations so ESPN can hook up its production truck -- that type of specificity compared to ‘Do they want Firehouse or Chick-Fil-A for lunch?’” Elliott said. “Where do the porta Johns go? How are folks going to flow into the campus? Messaging-wise, where do we want them to enter? Where do we want them to park? Signage, getting from them from the parking facility to the complex. Once they get into the complex, where is merchandise? Where’s the concession stand? Flow-logistics on how folks and spectators get into the facility.
“From a team standpoint, the conference requires that we have ‘Tent City,’ for the teams, a tent gathering location for the team’s own site, which is different than what we do for typical Georgia Tech meets,” he continued. “We’re going to be setting up ‘Tent City’ on Rose Bowl, our football practice field, making sure we do our due diligence to make sure we protect our field as much as possible, so there’s no long term damage or repairs we need to do going into the summer for football. Then, logistics of shipments coming in -- ice deliveries, food deliveries, merchandise deliveries -- stuff that hopefully nobody has to know about or deal with if we do our jobs well enough.”
It’s not a one-man job, as Lanier Parking will handle the expected overflowing traffic, there’s Tech’s Facilities and Events Operations staff (Will Clement, a member of that staff will handle women’s tennis), volunteers and other aspects that Elliott has organized and needs to be in place before the event starts.
Elliott is excited about the prospect of working the event, even though it will result in 16-hour days -- he estimates 7 a.m. until around 11 p.m. -- for him and his staff.
Of course, once the event begins, there is the unknown, which must be dealt with on the fly.
Complicating matters is the women’s tennis regional taking place at neighboring Ken Byers Tennis Complex.
“In our bid proposal, we had to ask for permission not to sell tickets because of the logistics, and the setup of our facility. Somebody is able to walk into a track complex for free and simply look over or look through whatever dividing system we would have in the middle of the bleacher and be able to watch a free tennis event, when folks on the tennis side had to pay,” he said. “Then, there were some egress issues with the width of our concourse. Adding any sort of barrier would have limited our ability to be able to seat enough folks in those seats without having any egress issues from a fire standpoint. So we were fortunate that NCAA was able to work with us on that piece of it. Otherwise, once you get it up and running it pretty much takes care of itself.”
Elliott is spending this upcoming week getting his ducks in a row and planning out every second of the 16-hour day, controlling the things he can control.
“I’m creating a timeline of when and what’s supposed to happen throughout the day -- from 7 a.m. through 11:00 at night,” he said. “I’m going to be checking boxes off and looking through everything to see what I need to prepare for to make sure we have volunteers in the right place, staff showing up and taking breaks like they’re supposed to, rotating in and out, food deliveries. Then there are some of the unknowns that I need to be flexible enough to be able to accommodate, requests from the ACC that they’re not going to know about until we get on site and things start to happen. But, you know, the best laid plans... It’s knowing the play well enough that you can know where to call the audible.”
He had to call his first audible prior to this weekend, as graduation at McCamish forced him to alter how he planned to receive some early deliveries.
“When shipments come in, everything gets delivered to Bobby Dodd Stadium and from there we distribute out to our other facilities. McCamish would have been an ideal location to store stuff,” he said. “With Graduation going on we have to do more of a shell game, a lot more moving pieces on when we can get into the facility, where we can utilize our storage spaces. Then for the actual track meet we’re going to be utilizing McCamish as headquarters, if you will, for some of our vendors throughout the day.”
Even with the expected -- and unexpected -- craziness of the next 10 days, Elliott wouldn’t trade the surprising flurry of activity of the spring.
“It’s been a pleasant surprise, all this good stuff going,” he said. “I definitely love what I do. I did not anticipate all of this but it’s been a good surprise.”