Sept. 8, 2011
Time Lapse captured and produced by Corinne Calabro, ASU Media Relations
Story By Jeremy Hawkes
ASU Media Relations
TEMPE- There's little rest for those involved in the world of intercollegiate athletics and even less during the week leading up to a huge home game.
While everyone gets caught up in the pomp and circumstance of a Friday night game hosted on ESPN and featuring the institution's first-ever "Black Out" event - the position Arizona State University finds itself in as it faces off against Missouri this evening - the efforts of the many working behind the scenes to prepare for such a tilt might go unnoticed.
So the fans will pour into the stands tonight, weaving their way around the tables and tents set up around the stadium, heading through the seemingly endless array of barricades and turnstyles before finding their way to their seat and laying witness to the pristine field, game program in hand as they prepare for one of the biggest Sun Devil matchups in recent history. But chances are, few will take a moment to think of the preparation that goes into everything they are witnessing before the game starts.
Enter Pete Wozniak, ASU's longtime athletic facilities maintenance manager, Brian Johnson, ASU's longtime athletic grounds facilities manager and their staff of approximately ten to 15 workers on any particular week. It's safe to say that without the efforts of Wozniak, Johnson and their crew, the game day experience most fans go through wouldn't be near as pleasant.
Wozniak first got started as a student at Arizona State back in the late eighties. That's when he first found himself getting involved in intercollegiate athletics, wanting to "find a job in sports as a student." He started working on the facilities staff and the rest, as they say, is history. And Brian Johnson was right there along with them, and the two combine for over 50 years of experience in their field of work.
Now in his 26th year at Arizona State, Wozniak took his job in facilities fresh out of college and has been at it ever since. During the time, Wozniak has traveled the world, helping to set up everything from Super Bowls to international football games to a number of postseason bowl games. He has set up the grounds for baseball, softball, track and field and just about everything else you can imagine.
And despite all the work, the long hours in the sun and the general underappreciation someone in his position seems to get, Wozniak loves where he's at.
"Every day when we do our job, you see the results of it - every hour even." Wozniak said. "Everyone sees the painting on the field, and that's the awesome thing."
Prior to every home game, the facilities crew is out on the field, setting up the new canvas and getting ready to repaint it after the cleats and bodies of the student-athletes tore his work up mere hours after it was finished the week prior.
And while the field is a big part of his routine, it's all the little things that people rarely notice that Wozniak feels are underrated. While some work on getting the field in shape for the upcoming game, other members of his squad are spreading the game programs (nearly 25,000 in all) around the stadium, setting up the handicapped risers and making sure the barricades and turnstyles are in place. The little things that help the whole operation run smoothly are the things that go the furthest.
But the one thing fans will likely notice as they first enter the stadium on Friday is, in fact, that freshly painted field, looking clean and crisp as the home Sun Devils take to the pitch to battle the Tigers and this is where Johnson really steps in. The field prep doesn't even typically begin until the day before the game and doesn't usually finish with the paint dried and the field ready to be played on until mere hours before the teams step onto it for their pre-game drills.
"He works harder than anyone I've met in my life," said Phillip Schaefer on Johnson, who worked as a student on the facilities crew from 2003-07.
In those days or even hours before any scheduled matchup, Johnson sets up the canvas and makes sure the final product lives up to the expectations of those in the stadium on game night.
"Some places take two to three days to get done what we do in half a day," Wozniak says. "We're pretty efficient."
"Every game is a big game for us and we treat each one the same."
And much of that efficiency is owed to those who work under Wozniak in the same position he started in over a quarter of a century ago. The student workers, Wozniak says, are what keep the ship afloat and what keep him from losing his mind. Leading up to Friday night's game, Wozniak said that he had three full-time workers painting the field. The rest were students.
"We rely on the student staff and they are key for us," he said. "Without them, we're not getting it done."
So as you fill the stadium tomorrow and admire the work that's been done to get the field in playing shape, be sure to take a moment to think of the little guys that work behind the scenes to make sure your game day experience is one of the best. And don' t worry too much about those hardworking few slaving away in the heat either.
"Right now it's not always so great (because of the heat)," Wozniak says. "But come October and November, everyone's going to be jealous that we get to work outside."
Special thanks to contributors: Jeremy Hawkes, Jason Wise, Jamie Hines, Chakris Kussalanant, Kerry Howe, Steve Rodriguez, Maggie Emmons, Tom Story and Herbert Castillano.