Arenas team goes extra mile to convert Event Centre

Conversion 3

In 2022, the WinSport Arena was renamed the WinSport Event Centre. This change better reflects the venue's versatility, showcasing its ability to host a variety of events — from hockey and figure skating to curling, concerts, basketball, and badminton.

Last week, the WinSport team demonstrated their impressive ability to quickly transform the venue. On Friday, June 7th, the Calgary Surge hosted a game at 7 p.m. The following evening, the Bethel Music Worship Night took place, and by Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m., the venue was ready for another Surge game.

“Time management is crucial,” says Brendan Barber, WinSport’s longtime arena operations manager. “If you can't get started promptly because you’re waiting for others, you need to identify tasks you can complete in the meantime to ensure the entire job gets done on time.”

Each venue conversion is an eight-hour task for a team of 12 to 13 members. Last weekend’s setup began early due to a Surge game on Wednesday. After a hockey game ended at 11 p.m. on Tuesday, the team performed final ice maintenance for an hour before starting to lay decking over the ice around midnight. This involves covering nearly 20,000 square feet of ice with over 600 sheets of decking and removing the glass — a precision task.

“We have tempered glass panels weighing over 150 pounds each. We use a forklift with a construction tool, essentially giant suction cups with a built-in compressor, to lift the glass,” explains Barber.

Once the decking is down and the glass is removed, the court floor is installed, followed by the nets and backboards, which each weigh over 1,000 pounds. The team then sets up VIP staging and risers for courtside seating, and WinSport’s catering team arranges courtside chairs and other game-day essentials.

For the Bethel Music concert on Saturday night, the next conversion began within 24 hours. After the venue was cleared following the Surge game, the court floor was removed, and the stage was set up.

“Building the stage involves placing a backdrop curtain and ensuring everything is centered and correctly positioned using laser levels,” says Barber.

Transitioning back to basketball, the biggest challenge was waiting for other teams to clear their equipment. “We find quick tasks to do before starting the main work. We completed the overnight conversion from concert to basketball by 8 a.m. on Sunday. With doors opening at 1 p.m. and the game at 2 p.m., it was a tight schedule, especially with the catering team setting up chairs.”

Large city venues like those in Los Angeles, Boston, and Toronto have dedicated teams solely focused on arena conversions, often flipping from hockey to basketball in a few hours.

“Our team not only handles conversions but also manages the operations of three arenas from 5:30 a.m. to midnight,” says Barber. “Despite the diverse tasks and sometimes challenging schedules, our team remains positive and delivers successful events consistently.”

The Calgary Surge will play home games at the Event Centre on June 14th and 16th. The next major conversion will take place later this month in preparation for the Yonex Canadian Open badminton championships.