The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

January 26, 2013

Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center

Staff steps up to meet challenges of one of busiest times of the year

By Sarah Plummer
Register-Herald Reporter

BECKLEY — You’d be hard pressed to find someone in Raleigh County who has not attended a game, graduation or other event at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center, but few think about the man-hours needed to get our favorite events and concerts off the ground.

In the midst of one of its busiest weeks in the year with last weekend’s Extreme Bull Riding, Rough and Rowdy Boxing and next week’s Big Atlantic Classic banquet and games, the center employs a lot of hands that make the magic happen.

Extreme Bull Riding came to a close last weekend, so the center had to immediately ready itself for high school basketball practices and Thursday’s Woodrow Wilson High School basketball game.

It may sound like plenty of time to change over, but with bull riding come tons of dirt installed and removed by CPI of Daniels for around 2,000 attendees, said Facilities Manager Dennis Phillips.

With a team of 20 to 30, 12 of whom are full-time regulars, it took all of three days to get the building ready for basketball, said Eugene Petrey, assistant facilities manger.

After CPI removed the dirt, crews took care of the remaining dirt that needed to  be hand-swept and vacuumed.

In addition, the crew had to clean the entire center top to bottom because dirt had been tracked, literally, throughout the facility.

On top of that, it takes the crew about three hours to lay the basketball floor and another three hours to set up bleachers.

Petrey explained that having new temp workers can create added stress.

“Our regular crew has a rhythm. I have to spend my time going around supervising and personally won’t be able to get any of the physical work done,” he said.

The basketball setup will be taken down for the weekend’s Rough and Rowdy Boxing event. The crew will then be cleaning and setting up for a 1,700 seat banquet lunch for the Big Atlantic Classic banquet on Sunday, said Phillips.

The banquet will then be turned into a basketball floor for Big Atlantic Classic basketball games Jan. 28-Feb. 2.

“This will probably be one of the most challenging turnovers we have had in recent memories,” said Phillips, though he pointed out the convention center will again have a 24-hour turnaround between the second day of the 2013 Annual Women’s Expo on March 2-3 and the Harlem Globetrotters show on March 4.

This March changeover will involve taking down tables, chairs and curtains and installing the full basketball floor and bleachers, he said.

While crews feel the pressure of getting the center ready for the public, Phillips said he and his crew are “going to be extra busy, and glad to be so.”

Not only do facilities crews work to get the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center prepared, Executive Chef Roy Lynch has to keep patrons fed, a task that has him going from cooking concession for games to serving a 1,700-plate lunch.

In addition to cooking concessions for the Rough and Rowdy Boxing, the kitchen staff is preparing a meal for a large ski group with more than 500 kids and their chaperons, he added.

Lynch explained that among the challenges he faces are storing enough uncooked food for the hectic week ahead, having enough staff to cook all the food required, and physically getting enough concessions for 700 people at a time and a banquet for 1,700 cooked, plated and kept warm.

He said that cooks will start preparing food at 6 a.m. Sunday for the Big Atlantic Classic lunch banquet.

He explained that a banquet this size will leave around 5,500 plates and utensils dirty, and it will take his staff a full day and a half to clean the dishes and the kitchen.

Typically Lynch has a staff of 15 to 20. For the banquet, he’ll need a staff of 40 to 50 to help plate and serve food, he said.

Lynch was to meet with his sous chef to map out an intricate time schedule delegating prepping, cooking and plating tasks to each crew member.

“There are a lot of challenges and it will be a lot of work, but I am looking forward to it. It is a big honor to cook for Mr. (Jim) Justice (founder of the Big Atlantic Classic banquet and tournament) and it is a fun challenge my staff and I look forward to each year,” he added.

— E-mail: splummer@