Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Converting the Kohl

The University of Wisconsin?s Kohl Center is one of the most impressive, state-of-the-art college sports facilities in the country. Four UW teams consistently call it home, as it stands proudly on Madison?s West Dayton Street.

Of course, a building of such stature and versatility requires a lot of hard work, much of which occurs behind the scenes. Transforming the Kohl Center from a basketball gym into a hockey arena seems like a daunting task to your average Joe. But to the Kohl Center conversion crew, it?s just another day at the office.

?It?s a routine,? said UW Building and Grounds Superintendent Dan Wyatt. ?You get used to it.?


For Wyatt, his job may be routine after six years, but he still remains busy, especially of late.

Starting on Feb. 11 ? a day before presidential candidate Barack Obama came to Madison ? the conversion crew turned the Kohl Center over six times in a seven-day stretch, including five days in a row converting from basketball to hockey and back.

?Six conversions in seven days,? Wyatt said. ?That?s the most I?ve ever done since I?ve been here.?

Nevertheless, Wyatt remained calm and confident in his crew?s ability to always get the job done.

?I don?t panic,? Wyatt said. ?I plan way in advance, and I really don?t get too excited. You can?t. ? We?ve done it long enough. [You have to have] proper planning and [make] sure you have the people here you need. By this time of year, with the students and the stagehands we use in town, they?re all pretty familiar with what they need to do with their jobs.?

One of Wyatt?s hardest workers is UW alumnus Brian Dodge, who started working on the crew as a freshman and is now Wyatt?s right-hand man seven years later. Dodge agreed that although the job may seem impossible to most, it?s really not as bad as it seems.

?Everything usually goes really smoothly,? said the Rochester, Minn. native. ?[But] it?s sometimes difficult getting enough people in here.?

The conversion crew is made up of a database of about 55 paid students along with six non-student, full-time employees. All 55 students are not required to be at every conversion, as each transformation takes approximately 120 man-hours (40 students takes three hours).

?Conversions basically entail after any games we will switch the floor over,? Dodge explained. ?After every game, we will switch over to the next thing on the calendar and try and give [the teams] a couple days to practice on the game floor.?

The calendar started to get jam-packed starting the evening of Feb. 11.

?[The] Obama [rally] was difficult to do because you?re dealing with a lot of people, and you?ve got too many bosses who don?t really know what they want,? Dodge said. ?People who are in charge of his campaign come in and, since they haven?t done much planning, tell our managers what they want and then they get here, and they don?t like it because of how it might look on TV, so we had to change things four times.?

Although it took less time to convert the Kohl Center from a basketball facility into a presidential rally, Wyatt said it?s still easier for the crew to stick to mere basketball and hockey conversions.

?When we do concerts, graduation, hockey and basketball, that?s what we do, so it?s no big deal,? Wyatt explained. ?The way it?s set up from year to year really doesn?t change much. It?s the events that they add spur-of-the-moment are the ones that are more difficult for us to do.?

Like Wyatt, Dodge would also prefer to stick to what he?s been doing for the past seven years: converting the Kohl Center from hockey to hardwood and back. The former, Dodge notes, is the more difficult of the two.

?If we?re on ice, first thing we?ll do is take out boards and glass from the hockey rink, put down an insulated polar flooring, and then we put the risers and chairs on top of that,? Dodge said.

The polar flooring is about an inch thick and sits directly on top of the ice. The basketball floor sits about two inches above this flooring.

?Preferably you go into hockey on a Wednesday night so they can practice Thursday and have games Friday, Saturday,? Wyatt noted. ?Then, normally Saturday night, we go back to basketball. The building is a basketball facility; therefore, it?s basketball for the majority of the basketball season. So our hockey teams are sort of like visiting teams all the time.?

Wyatt and Dodge?s responsibilities range far from just hockey and basketball conversions, however. Wyatt is in charge of all the UW athletic fields including softball, soccer and track, as well as the maintenance required to keep the fields in top shape.

?[My] job?s kind of demanding,? Wyatt said. ?There?s some stress involved, but there?s some good times, too.?

Wyatt is used to the responsibility, however, as he was a golf course superintendent for 27 years before he ventured into Madison.

?Multitasking is easy for me because that?s what I?ve done my whole life,? said the Purdue University graduate. ?We [also] plan future events. Not only do we do conversions, but we do the maintenance. After wrestling (Feb. 20), we spent the last few days putting things back in their proper places, keeping things organized. We ordered more salt for the walkways, we repair all our equipment, we set up meetings every day in the building.?

Wyatt?s crew is also responsible for snow removal within the Kohl Center concourses.

?We have to take care of the snow removal which has been difficult this year,? Wyatt said. ?We might be out there until 10 at night then have to come in here and work.?

Needless to say, both Wyatt and Dodge?s duties are vital to the success of not only the Kohl Center, but to that of the Badger teams. That?s why both stress efficiency and safety as two key elements of their respective jobs.

?You want to do [things] in a timely manner, and in a safe manner, so the people working for me don?t get hurt, the athletes don?t get hurt and the patrons coming in the building don?t get hurt because it?s not done right,? Wyatt said.

Good thing they do it right.

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