Under the Kyle veil
From field painting to peace keeping: a glimpse into the gameday infrastructure
Published: Thursday, October 31, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 31, 2013 21:10
For those who complete the meticulous, behind-the-scenes work at Kyle Field, gamedays begin long before the gates are opened and end far after the stadium empties. Groundskeepers, police officers, caterers and clean-up crews work hard to make gamedays possible and keep the 12th Man Spirit going — even when no one is looking.
Leo Goertz, Class of 1982, is the athletic fields maintenance manager and works to prepare Kyle Field for every home game.
“Usually Friday is a day to make sure that everything is set and ready to go,” Goertz said. “Obviously, all the final paintings have been done, everything has been cut out and is in place.”
Goertz and others come in Saturday morning to look for any last-minute adjustments.
“We mow the field if it needs to be, then obviously we put the final touches out — setting up the sideline and setting up the field,” Goertz said. “I make sure the flags are ready for the Corps guys to put up. All we do is dot our I’s and cross our T’s. Most of our work is done Monday through Thursday.”
Since A&M’s move to the SEC, Goertz said he and his crew work to ensure a strong first impression among SEC fans.
“Being on national television, we want to put on our best,” he said. “With SEC fans coming in, this is their first impression of Kyle Field and you never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
Goertz said every day is a new challenge at Kyle Field, especially with unpredictable weather conditions, but it is a rewarding job.
“Being groundskeepers, at the end of the day at five — if we’re lucky to leave by five — you’re able to stop and turn around and take a look and see what you have done over the course of the day, whether that is painting the field or mowing a pattern,” he said. “We can stop and say ‘I think I have done a pretty good job today.’”
Lt. Allan Baron of the University Police Department said an extensive amount of work goes into ensuring the safety of the stadium and fans before and after the games.
“We have multiple officers working,” Baron said. “We have different assignments the day before, even before Yell Practice starts. There are a lot of things taking place as we are gearing up to gameday. Working in conjunction with local law enforcement and the Athletics Department, we provide security and federal law enforcement at all the games.”
Police do security sweeps, check people at the gates and supply security for the two teams.
“My assignment during game time and just prior is to work with the visiting team’s security,” Baron said. “Some [teams] will have multiple officers that attend, some may send one and some don’t send any. Most SEC schools do send police or security personnel.”
Baron said a school sends an average of two police officers to travel with the team. When the team arrives at Kyle Field, UPD helps provide the necessary support it needs to keep the team safe and ready to take the field.
While the police work hard to ensure no misconduct, others like Colin Pinnell, junior kinesiology major at Blinn, work behind press boxes and concession stands to feed the hungry masses.
Pinnell works for Global Event Group, a company that caters to the suites and press boxes in The Zone and on the west side of the stadium. He and the other caterers arrive at the games at least two hours in advance to make sure the food is prepared and ready to serve.
“Two hours before the game we set up all tables with linens and make it look real nice and then we set all [the people’s] food out how they want it,” Pinnell said. “Anything they ask us to do while we’re there, we have to pretty much do. We’re like waiters.”
Pinnell will sometimes help prepare the food in the kitchens, a task that starts early in the morning.
“Sometimes I help cook the food, so the cooks and me and my roommate, we usually go at like three or four in the morning to get the food ready and then we have to deliver it to all the stops,” Pinnell said. “Usually there are about 30 people running around doing all kinds of crazy stuff on game day, like working in the suites and the concessions.”
Pinnell said working in the suites does have its perks.
“We only really work before and after the games, we set up [and take down] everything then,” Pinnell said. “During the game, while they’re eating, we kind of have some free time so I usually kind of watch the game over their shoulders to check the score.”
While the work can be overwhelming at times, Pinnell said he loves the job.
“It’s really hectic all the time,” he said. “It’s awesome, I love the job honestly — I got pretty lucky.”
While Pinnell’s job serving fans may not gather as much attention as Johnny Manziel’s or Mike Evans’, he said he does contribute as a member of the 12th Man.
“For the people that we serve, they are all super into A&M and get really into [the games] so I guess if we didn’t get them their food they would be sad and wouldn’t have as much school spirit,” Pinnell said. “I guess I contribute to the 12th Man atmosphere.”
Early the next morning, senior elementary education major Jenna Stewart helps clean up Kyle Field.
“When we are out there cleaning, I feel like I am doing my part to keep things running the way they are supposed to,” Stewart said. “While waking up early after a gameday is hard, I am glad to help out my school and the football program.”
Any student organization or group interested in cleaning can sign up for a section for a single game, she said. As a member of the water polo team, Stewart helps clean The Zone every Sunday.
Cleaning the stadium is an arduous task and comes with some highs and lows, she said.
“The best part for me is being with the rest of my team and cleaning up the section together,” Stewart said. “It gives us time to talk and hang out with each other and really helps with team bonding.”