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Huntington Center is an ever-changing arena

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    Simmie Vesteda, Jr., puts tape on plastic that is covering the sides of the Huntington Center floor before dirt is spread over it Thursday in preparation for the Professional Bull Riders event this weekend.

    <THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT
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  • FEA-huntington07p-1

    Workers spread dirt inside Huntington Center on Thursday.

    <THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT
    Buy This Image

FEA-huntington07p

Simmie Vesteda, Jr., puts tape on plastic that is covering the sides of the Huntington Center floor before dirt is spread over it Thursday in preparation for the Professional Bull Riders event this weekend.

THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT
Enlarge | Buy This Image

Professional bull riding is a dirty business.

Just ask Jesus Rivera and his crew of about 18 to 20 people at Huntington Center.

Rivera, operations manager of Huntington Center, and his team are working practically around the clock to prepare for the two-day Professional Bull Riders event set to begin at 7:30 p.m. today. The final round will begin at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

To make the event possible on the home hockey rink of the Toledo Walleye, Rivera said the ice is covered by sheets of plywood and heavy-duty plastic.

PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to view photos of the crew setting up

Early Thursday morning, trucks hauled in between 50 and 100 tons of dirt that was then spread out over the surface by bulldozers.

“You’ll just see trucks and trucks and trucks loading the dirt on the floor,” Rivera said. “On Sunday, it will be the reverse.”

The flurry of activity Thursday morning came on the heels of Wednesday night’s sold-out Zac Brown Band concert.

When much of Toledo was sidelined by a Level 3 snow emergency on Wednesday, the Huntington Center crew added snow removal to its list of chores to ensure the show went on as scheduled.

“We want our patrons to come and be safe and be happy,” Rivera said.

For a concert, the staging and dressing rooms are set up to the artist’s standards in advance. Then, typically, the day of the event, the artist’s staff bring in its own lighting, speakers, and other equipment.

Once that equipment is set up, Rivera said his crew spends about 45 minutes arranging between 1,800 and 2,000 chairs on the floor. Depending on ticket sales, Rivera said the number may change to add additional seating or rid the area of unsold seats late in the day.

After the show, the seats are moved as quickly as possible to allow the artist to load up and move on to the next city, Rivera said.

“When there are back-to-back events, we have our hands full,” he said. “The whole night we’re taking care of the conversion, and the next night, there’s a completely different event.”

A “dirt event,” such as Professional Bull Riders, monster trucks, and the circus, provide its own challenges.

“A crew comes in to dust the whole arena from top to bottom,” Rivera said. “You wouldn’t believe how much dust spreads around.”

FEA-huntington07p-1

Workers spread dirt inside Huntington Center on Thursday.

THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT
Enlarge | Buy This Image

After the Professional Bull Riders clear out, his crew has a slight break. The Walleye will return to ice for practice Wednesday.

What’s the secret to a smooth transition? Rivera credits the staff, many of whom work on a part-time, as-needed basis.

“Good teamwork makes it happen,” Rivera said. [The workers] don’t see a show or anything, they just come afterward and get the work done. People come in the next day and can’t even tell what went on the day before.”

Tickets for the Professional Bull Riders range from $22 to $52 and children’s tickets are $12; a $2 surcharge is added for tickets purchased the day of the event. Tickets are available at the Huntington Center box office, by calling 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com.

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