“My job is to figure out how to get us from Point A to Point B,” Glen Lucero says very matter-of-factly. However, there is no such thing as a straight line between Point A and Point B and there is no such thing as “just another day” for Lucero.
As the senior director of conversions for the Pepsi Center, Lucero is part of a team of 19 full-time people who make sure the massive arena is prepared for whatever event is scheduled, whether that’s one of three professional sports teams who call the Pepsi Center home, a concert featuring one of today’s hottest superstars, or an event where monster trucks are the main event. Whatever is needed to make sure the event goes off without a hitch for the performers or the fans, Lucero and his team are tasked with making sure that’s exactly what happens.
“Planning is really the most important piece of the entire puzzle,” Lucero said. “You have to look at the big picture and know exactly what is happening from week to week. My job is to look months in advance and be ready for whatever is coming.”
During this time of year, “whatever is coming” includes nights where the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche play on consecutive nights. A stretch in early March has the two teams alternating nights on the court or ice for eight straight days. Lucero and his team call that “a run” and it’s one of the key things they look for when the NBA and NHL schedules are released each year.
“We’re always looking for runs like that,” he said. “We’ve had 14 events in 13 days before, so you look forward to when the schedules are released so you know how your year is going to play out and what it will look like.”
On nights when the Nuggets and Avalanche alternate, Lucero and his team will be ready to switch out the court for the ice (or vice versa) not long after the arena empties.
“For the Nuggets court, you’re looking at about an hour for 12 people to pick up the court in pieces,” Lucero said. “The court is comprised of 245 pieces of 4-foot-by-8-foot sheets that weigh around 200 pounds each. But it’s not just the court you’re picking up. Think about the seating for a basketball game versus a hockey game. For the Nuggets, there are 10 rows of retractable seating and chairs that aren’t there when the Avalanche skates so we have to make sure all of that is taken into account while the court is being dismantled. The whole conversion takes about three and a half to four hours.”
That used to be a task that would require a lot of back-breaking labor, but last offseason, the Pepsi Center installed telescopic risers that retract with the push of a button. Lucero said the installation caused “a celebration” for his team.
It’s things like that that help Lucero and his team become more and more efficient as the years go on. Now in his 11th season working behind the scenes at the Pepsi Center, Lucero says constant improvement is not only important, but also a passion shared by his entire team.
“You’ll never be able to learn everything that needs to be done on every project so each of our guys focuses on a certain area,” Lucero said. “Most of the guys have been on the crew for about eight to 10 years. They’re always calling or texting each other with ideas on how to improve the process.”
It’s not only a labor-intensive job, but it’s also a career that demands a lot of time. There are days when being on the job for 20 hours is not out of the question.
“When the show trucks pull in at 6 a.m. and leave at 3 a.m., you have to have the same guys there to start and finish the job. The same people have to be there at the beginning and at the end,” Lucero said. “There used to be more slow time than there is now. There was time to decompress. We’ve now had about four or five years of offseason projects, including things like installing a new scoreboard. There are always lots of improvements going on and we have to make use of the dark days. That’s when things get done that can’t get done while an event is going on.”
And it’s not just concerts and sporting events that test Lucero and his team. The biggest and most intensive event of the entire year happens when Monster Jam pulls into Denver on Valentine’s Day weekend.
“Monster Jam is our biggest conversion of the year,” Lucero said. “Everything on the schedule really points toward that because there’s nothing else like it. From the dirt needed to be brought in for the event to cleaning all of the dirt and mud up from everywhere afterwards, it’s a huge project. This year, we have Black Sabbath playing the night after Monster Jam so we’ll have the arena completely cleaned of the dirt and mud before anyone comes in for that concert.”
Monster Jam may be the biggest, but it’s part of the never-ending changes that the Pepsi Center undergoes and Lucero and his team oversees. He chuckles when he calls his year, “one big project.”
“We never do the same thing every day,” Lucero said. “Even in down time, the rest of the Pepsi Center is hopping. There are always things to be done and projects to be overseen, including private events. People may look at the schedule and think nothing is going on at the Pepsi Center that night, but there is always something going on at the Pepsi Center.”
Make no mistake about it, being a part of the conversion term isn’t an easy job. Lucero, however, says that there are immeasurable rewards in working with his team.
“It’s amazing that you get to work with 19 of your closest friends on a daily basis,” Lucero said. “We’re spending a lot more time with each other than we are with our own family, so we really become a family ourselves. We’ve had guys on the team who have gone to each other’s weddings and been there for the birth of each other’s children. These guys work hard but also make things fun. It’s a family environment. It’s really amazing.”