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

The Building Managers: Chris Wright

Regional vice president, AEG Facilities, O.co Coliseum and Oracle Arena

Chris Wright’s job with O.co Coliseum requires him to be a quick-change artist as the venue doubles as the home of the Oakland A’s and Oakland Raiders. Those skills were put to an extreme test in October.

At 9:31 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 5, when the last of the 48,000 fans had departed after watching the Detroit Tigers beat the A’s in Game 2 of the American League Divisional Series, Wright’s crew cleaned the ballpark, relocated the pitching mound, installed 6,679 seats, removed foul poles, installed goal posts, removed various sponsor signage and passed a safety inspection. All in 17 hours.

The conversion of the stadium from one sport to another is a process that Wright has orchestrated about half a dozen times in his two years in Oakland, but usually over the course of a couple days. At 6:35 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 6, 49,000 fans began entering to watch the Raiders beat the San Diego Chargers.

“It was a crazy conversion done in record time,” Wright said. “You need to plan for every single contingency. If a crane goes down and you don’t have a backup, you’re talking about hours of delays. This time around, we couldn’t even afford minutes. And four days later we hosted a sold-out Game 5 at the same time as a sold-out Pink concert next door. We had 63,000 people on-site.”

Wright’s career in facility operations began in 1995 in the corporate finance division at SMG’s headquarters in
Photo by: O.Co Coliseum
Philadelphia. He began to travel to various SMG venues and became interested in the operations side. In 2001, he began his first Oakland tour of duty as the assistant general manager for the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum Complex.

Wright next went to Long Island where he served a stint as general manager for the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, now the NHL’s oldest unrenovated arena. “In Nassau, you truly never knew when or where the next problem was going to come from,” he said.

In March 2006, for example, a sewage pipe burst in the ceiling above the Islanders’ dressing and workout rooms, dropping debris and sewage everywhere.

“[Islanders general manager] Mike Milbury was in the training room at 4 or 5 in the morning with hazmat gear on, and I was just thinking, ‘I have to find something else to do.’”

Not all of his challenges on Long Island were venue-related.

“One night, there was an urban artist who just did not want to finish his set,” Wright said. “The promoter was upset because he’s way into curfew, he’s paying stage hands overtime to stand around, and his guy just wouldn’t wrap it up. So the promoter jumps on the side of the stage and he’s signalling for the artist to get off. The crowd can see the whole thing and they love it, of course. It was hysterical. So the promoter jumps down and pulls the plug on the sound board. The artist is furious and jumps off the stage, breaks the sound board and attacks the promoter. Yeah, that was a fun night.”

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