SBJ/Nov. 18-24, 2013/In Depth

The Building Managers: Mike Scanlon

General manager, PPL Park Regional vice president, Global Spectrum

Mike Scanlon learned a valuable lesson early in his career as a facility manager — never take your building for granted.

Scanlon was the general manager of Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton, N.J., when the unthinkable happened during a sold-out minor league hockey game in 1999. The day before, new Plexiglas panels were attached to the
dasherboards, but five minutes into the game, the panels started falling out because the structures did not fit properly to the hockey supports circling the rink. Nobody bothered to make sure the glass was fastened correctly, leading to a nightmarish three hours for Scanlon and his staff.

“We had to move people out of their seats in the first two rows, the best seats in the house, to the club level so they could stand up there and overlook from both ends,” Scanlon said. “We took all the ushers and put them behind the glass and any time it looked like a player check, they had to stand up and physically put their hands up so the glass wouldn’t pop out.”

Fourteen years later, the longest night of his professional career taught Scanlon that it’s best to walk a building prior
Photo by: Philadelphia Union
to an event to make sure everything’s OK. Since that incident, that’s been the case for Scanlon in Trenton, as well as his other stops at the Rose Garden (now the Moda Center), Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis, and now PPL Park, home of Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union.

“You’ve got to get out from behind your desk,” Scanlon said. “You’d be amazed when I come back to my office what I pull out of my pockets with things I find [including] nuts and bolts. Being in an outdoor stadium, you could find a deceased bird in your seating area. You can check the building top to bottom in the morning and by 2 in the afternoon things change.”

The greatest compliment Scanlon received was the day in September 2004 when he was offered the job to run the financially troubled Rose Garden on behalf of the bondholders owning the arena after the Trail Blazers’ facility management firm filed for bankruptcy protection.

Global Spectrum turned things around for the building over the four years Scanlon was in charge. From 2004 to 2008, the arena averaged 48 concerts a year, an increase of 20 shows over the previous regime.

“When I got there, they had undergone massive layoffs … 100 full-time staff at one point,” Scanlon said. “We officially got the keys to the building at midnight Jan. 1, 2004. We had a televised NBA game at 5 p.m. that day and the next week had the U.S. Figure Skating Championships for 10 days on national television. It was quite an undertaking to get ready. We changed ticketing systems and were able to bring the staff back up to 100 people. It was phenomenal to bring the arena back to life and out of bankruptcy.”

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