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Construction begins for Growl stage

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Posted: Thursday, November 8, 2012 1:30 am

A steel skeleton towered about 50 feet over the field of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Wednesday.

Composed of about 4,000 parts, the infrastructure of the Gator Growl stage spans 60 feet wide by 52 feet deep on the east side of the stadium near the student section.

“This is the second year we’ve used this stage,” said Jeff Chenery, director of production for the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. “We’ve done it on every side of the stadium except the west side.”

He said the stage’s new position allowed last year’s audience to have a clearer view of the Gator Growl performances, which is often touted as the largest student-run pep rally in the nation. This year’s show is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday.

Boxes of speakers and rows of spotlights and gas generators filled the corridors behind the student section, waiting to be placed at strategic points around the stadium. It will take an electrical current of about 2,000 amperes to power the three-hour show, according to an email from associate producer of show Megan Harmon.

At the Gate 9 security checkpoint, security supervisor Taylor Hennings ate lunch while bundled in a beanie, blankets and boots. About half of the stadium’s east and north sides have been unavailable to students since the construction began, she said.

Hennings, a 22-year-old anthropology senior, said about 350 O’Connell Center employees and 40 professionals worked in shifts around the clock since 6 a.m. Sunday. Hennings worked about 40 hours at the stadium this week.

“It was colder at 2 a.m. when we got out here,” she said.

It took her and three other employees armed with forklifts three hours to unload the stage parts into the stadium.

The stage was delivered from Mountain Productions, a Pennsylvania-based staging company and is paid for on a year-to-year basis, Harmon said.

“It’s four semis worth of gear,” Chenery said.

Although the week of Gator Growl preparation was hectic, Chenery said it was nothing compared to the breakdown after the show ends Friday night. Workers will have about six hours to get the field back in football shape for Saturday’s game.

“The Super Bowl, Grammys, Emmys, inauguration ceremony,” he listed. “They brag about what we do here. The load-out is matched nowhere.”

Contact Michael Scott Davidson at [email protected].

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