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WWE Raw finished Monday night around 11 at the Wells Fargo Center. Tuesday morning at 7, a truck arrived at the arena stocked with NCAA swag: Hundreds of wooden pieces that needed to be put together for the court for Friday’s NCAA Sweet 16 games.
No more than three hours later, the job was nearly done. The Wells Fargo Center had a brand new court. And this wasn’t even a quick makeover. Not even close. The Wells Fargo Center’s crew of about 100 electricians, carpenters, teamsters, stagehands, electricians and managers shift the arena from whatever it’s been to whatever it needs to be. With information from Michael Sulkes, assistant general manager of the Wells Fargo Center, here’s how they do it.
This time of the year, the Wells Fargo Center has an ice surface for Flyers games. Everything else must go on top.
The first level above the ice is a protective layer Sulkes refers to as ice decking. Above the decking is another layer of panels. If you’ve been on the Wells Fargo Center floor for a concert, this is the surface you’ve stepped on. Basketball games, for the Sixers or special events like the NCAA Tournament, feature a court on top of those two layers.
Each given event also features different seating, tables, stages and even steps on which people walk. Supplies for Flyers and Sixers games and concerts are put into about 20 semi trailers and stored at an offsite facility while other events are going on.
From last Saturday to Friday, the Wells Fargo Center will have hosted a Flyers game, Sixers game, WWE match and the NCAA Tournament.
The NCAA makeover
The 100-plus segments of the court are made from Grade 1 maple. That’s how the NCAA rolls. According to a 2015 USA Today article, a court can cost $85,000 to $95,000.
And on Tuesday morning, Philadelphia got its court. Hours earlier, at 11 p.m. Monday, the work had actually started. As soon as the WWE event ended, the crew had started taking down the stage and seats and cleaning up. At about 2:30 a.m. the major pieces were cleared out. Overnight, a custodial crew continued cleaning the floor and other areas of the Wells Fargo Center.
The court arrives in hundreds of pieces placed in an order on the truck so that they can be assembled in the quickest way possible. Sulkes describes it as coming together “like a puzzle,” but it’s not a mystery where everything goes. It took the crew who worked on the court about two to three hours to screw all the pieces together.
The rest of the process is relatively easy. Baskets, the same ones used for Sixers games, were brought in and given new Spalding rims. Tables for scorekeepers and the media were added around court’s perimeter — something not usually done for Sixers games. They also added chairs to the floor.
The crew was able to take its time while transforming the Wells Fargo Center from a WWE setting to an NCAA setting. It spent all night clearing and cleaning the floor and then another few hours Monday assembling the court and adding other touches.
Oftentimes during Flyers and Sixers season, everything must be done faster. Sulkes said the crew has had nine “quick changes” this year, which is when one team plays during the day and the other at night. For occasions like these, the entire arena can be transformed — broken down, cleaned up and changed to hockey or basketball — in two hours and 15 minutes.