The Building Managers: Chris Wright
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.
“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
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.”