Saturday 11 May 2019 was a gorgeous day for footy – a top of 25 degrees, not a cloud in sight and a cool breeze in the air, a perfect Gold Coast Autumn day. Gates were due to open at 2:45pm, at which time the Stadium plaza would start filling up with SUNS and Melbourne supporters excited to watch their teams battle it out on the oval from 4:35pm. Our day started at 9am – there is a lot to do on game day before the gates open. The AFL Records arrived, chefs started cooking, staff started to clock in, and the ground LED screens and videoboard were powered up…all before 10am. From then on, it’s always full steam ahead! We do a final walk around and check of the venue and try our best to pick up on the little things we may have missed during the week: everything from missing signs, broken seats, surprise bird droppings to turnstiles rotating in the opposite direction and gates not opening. Once we have a list, we spend the next couple of hours making sure everything is fixed and crossed off that list before patrons start pouring through the Stadium gates.
An hour before gates open and it all comes together. Our amazing event staff arrive, security is in place, game day briefings are in full swing, the Stadium is shining, the music starts and the box office opens – it’s almost time to open gates!
We didn’t have a NEAFL (reserve grade) curtain raiser game this week, instead we were treated to AFL Junior Grid Games. Future AFL stars from U9 Junior AFL teams across the Gold Coast battle it out on Metricon Stadium’s main field and training field in a round robin style competition. 300 super excited kids and their parents arrived early to get ready for the big AFL debut. Our back of house corridor was full of giggles, team talk and coaches reminding their teams to stand in a straight line while everyone was getting ready to run onto the ground. Trying to keep 300 nine-year-olds focused and in line is never easy but it is always fun! (Don’t forget – gates haven’t opened yet, this all happens before anyone has arrived).
The Gold Coast SUNS team song began playing and the kids ran out through the field access race and through their own banner made by the wonderful SUNSCREAMERS cheer squad.
This is one of the reasons we do all of this – to see the biggest grins you have ever seen and their proud parents in the stands cheering on their kids. I think (secretly) we get just as excited as the kids!
While the kids have been enjoying their AFL banner and field experience, countless other operations have been happening around and outside the Stadium. Our event shuttle service began, roads were closed, traffic controllers in place, players were arriving and our final checks were taking place. As the games on the field are about to begin, the gates are about to open. We hear the call from Event Control (our eyes in the sky and the voice in our ears that keeps us all in check) to open gates. Gates are Open!
Excited fans and members are scanning through the gates, buying AFL records and merchandise, seeing the Junior Grid Games and finding their seats. The Melbourne team bus arrives at the same time, which is always a treat for fans and a logistical challenge for us!
Over the next two hours, fans continue to scan in, unexpected issues always come up: a barcode doesn’t work or the turnstile decides to spin the opposite direction (yes, things like this happen!), but nothing we can’t handle (yet!).
The game kicks off at 4:35pm – it is always hard for us to believe how big a day has already been and the game hasn’t even started yet!
It’s hard for us to explain how much happens while the fans and spectators sit in the stand and have no idea any of it is happening, but if everyone did know then we wouldn’t be very good at our jobs. While a nail-biting game unfolded between the SUNS and Melbourne, we had two ambulances arrive and depart the Stadium, a scoreboard decide to take a break and our event production team quickly wake it up, a couple of lost and found children (a heart-racing one for us), a couple of child and parent reunions, wet spills, player injuries, a few lights go out, and these are just a handful of the items that weren’t planned. Of course, the planned operations tick over – everything you see on the videoboard and hear over the PA system, the different bands playing around the Stadium, the broadcast and media operations to get the footy in the lounge rooms of those who couldn’t make it to the game, the very specific handouts and giveaways you receive when you enter the gates, player recovery and massages, cleaning, catering, eating and drinking and everything in between.
I don’t know if you saw the game, but *spoiler alert* the SUNS kicked a goal to be in front with 20 seconds to go! Most of us thought it was all over, the SUNS had won but Melbourne fought back and kicked a goal in the final seconds to win by 1 POINT!
For us, the madness starts again – it’s time to get everyone out of the Stadium safely and efficiently. The bus hub is in full operation, lines are in place (whether they are followed or not…), buses are running back to Nerang Station, Broadbeach and our Park ‘n’ Ride facility, extra train services are operating, traffic controllers are guiding cars out of carparks, and fans are waiting next to the change room doors to get a glimpse and a signature from their favourite star of the game.
The bus lines to the Nerang Station bus were our problem child this game (their is always one!). The line was set up in a giant snake to get as many people into the line and onto the waiting buses as possible, but if you ever played domino’s you would know that once one person cuts the line then everyone does and half of the line becomes redundant and half the size. As a result, it tooks us a little longer to clear the bus hub than we like but one to put on the ‘fix it’ list before Round 10.
Once everyone is home, safe and sound, we have done our job but our job at the Stadium is not done. There is still a team bus to clear, activities to bump out, doors to lock, lights to turn off and we need to put the Stadium back into lockdown. Media and Broadcast are finishing their articles for the morning papers to go to print, the cleaning team arrives for the bulk out clean, and the Stadium is reset.
And now our job is done. Time to go home but back again on Monday to start getting ready for Round 10 on Saturday 25 May: SUNS vs. Geelong.