North Texas Daily

Super Pit staff spends offseason working as community venue

Super Pit staff spends offseason working as community venue

Super Pit staff spends offseason working as community venue
April 03
01:04 2014

Ehsan Azad // Staff Writer

Though known mostly for hosting North Texas basketball games, the UNT Coliseum and its seven-member staff are constantly fulfilling the needs of the Mean Green and Denton communities.

The arena serves as host to many events outside of basketball, such as UNT and high school graduations, guest lecturers, cheer events, dance competitions, orientations and job fairs. All events are scheduled year-round.

“We don’t have a downtime really,” said administrative specialist Courtney Burke.

Just this past weekend, the Coliseum hosted a dance competition and will host the UPC Concert featuring J. Cole April 24. The Coliseum accepts virtually any event that can fit into the floor plan, which cuts out some large area events.

“We can’t fit the elephants through the door,” Burke said.

The Coliseum has 9,797 permanent seats, two men’s restrooms, two women’s restrooms and 3 concession stands. In addition to ceremonies held in the main arena, there is a gymnastics room, a press room and a lounge area available for rent as well.

The cost depends on what category the event falls into, either a community rate or a campus event. Usually for campus events, events sanctioned by the university, the rate is $1,200 for a four-hour event. The cost rises to $2,400 for a full-day event, and then costs $300 per hour for every additional hour. The community rate for a four-hour event is $1,600 and $3,200 for the full day.

One of the biggest events that the venue supports is graduations for both UNT and 22 high schools in the area. The North Texas graduation ceremony is one of the staff’s busiest events in the spring.

“We pretty much handle the whole event,” Burke said. “We will do the setup, staging, and chairs as well as the staffing such as ushers, folks at the gate handing programs and police are here as well.”

Operations coordinator Douglas Renner holds plenty of memories in his 21 years working inside the coliseum with Burke to set up the events. He said usually after basketball games, it will take maybe a day and a half to get the venue ready to use again.

“Some events are not as hard as the other ones,” Renner said. “When people leave their stuff and they spill, it’s hard to clean up.”

While it can be a dirty job at times, Renner said he enjoys it because it makes the time go by faster. One of his biggest memories is when Olympic gold medalists came to visit the Coliseum.

“It was fun watching the Olympic athletes come by,” Renner said. “It was packed.”

With only seven members, the venue staff reaches out to student workers and former retired workers to work at events. The extra help is needed when the school holds high school graduations for the surrounding area’s independent school districts, such as Denton, Carrollton, Lewisville, Northwest, Sanger, Argyle and Ponder.

On a regular graduation day, the staff changes the colors of the flags and the skirts on stage to match the school up next. With as many as four ceremonies in one day at three to four hours each, the main goal for Burke and her staff is to make sure the Coliseum is clean and safe for every school coming in.

“We roll them through, once we start it takes about a week and a half,” Burke said. “It is a lot of work for my staff to clean up the venue.”

Denton ISD currently schedules all three of their high schools’ graduations at the Coliseum, with plans in the making for the proposed fourth high school, which won’t be open until 2016. The connection with the Coliseum helps maintain a good relationship between the school district and UNT.

“Denton ISD is very fortunate to have the University of North Texas within our school district,” said Sharon Cox, director of communications for Denton ISD. “They have been very flexible in working with us.”

Cox said the Coliseum and the school district have been collaborating for almost 20 years back when there was only one high school. The Coliseum also helps the district out by offering the Gateway Center for their alternative high school graduation when needed.

Cox said having graduation on a university campus has a huge positive impact on the students.

“It helps them realize that the next step for more than 80 percent of our graduates is going on to a higher education facility,” Cox said.

More than 1,500 high school seniors from Denton ISD will graduate from the Coliseum on June 6, with about 600 of those students from Denton Guyer High School. The chance to maximize the size of the crowd by holding it at the arena brings excitement to the school.

“It is such a large venue,” said Gene Terronez, Guyer High School associate principal. “We don’t have to limit how many family members they can bring to the graduation.”

All events can be found at the Coliseum webpage at http://studentaffairs.unt.edu/coliseum.

Feature photo: The Super Pit, also known as the Coliseum, is cleaned after a two-day dance competition that took place this past weekend. The building will now be vacant until graduation. Photo by Dana Pisciottano / Intern Photographer 

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