On Saturday, December 5 at 7:00 p.m., men’s ice hockey matched up against Northeastern at Conte Forum. Despite an overtime session, the game resulted in a 3-3 tie, ending nearly three hours after the puck dropped. At 2:00 p.m. the next day, less than twenty-four hours later, men’s basketball hosted UMass Lowell in the same arena, but on the hardwood rather than the ice.
Who’s responsible for this crucial transition of Conte’s floor surfaces?
Meet BC’s very own “bull gang.” This crew of students and staff converts Conte back and forth between a fully functioning hockey rink and basketball court throughout the winter season. Depending on the BC athletic schedule, this process may need to be repeated three or four times per week.
While plenty of students attend hockey and basketball games alike, few actually appreciate the staff and understand the intensive work necessary to support both sports programs.
Nick Nelson (MCAS ’18) agreed to give The Gavel an inside perspective on one of the more peculiar jobs on campus. Nelson, who is in his second year working with the Conte bull gang, revealed that he “loves the flexibility of his job,” for which he typically works three days a week in three to four hour shifts. These shifts are sent out at the beginning of the week, allowing members of the bull gang to choose their own workweek schedules. Nelson admitted he was initially surprised to find how organized and methodical the process of converting Conte really is.
Swapping out Conte’s athletic surface involves plenty of moving parts and diligent work by anywhere from 30-50 workers at a time; yet, the operation literally occurs overnight.
Immediately following a game, the bull gang begins its work transforming Conte. Night games require especially demanding hours. If there is a game at 7:00 p.m., the crew works late into the night---sometimes through 1 a.m.---until the process is complete. According to Nelson, it’s easier for the bull gang to convert Conte from the ice to the hardwood than the other way around. He attributed this mainly to the fact that it’s far simpler to put up the hockey rink glass than to take it down.
When it’s time to switch to basketball, the bull gang covers the ice with black fiberglass mats and proceeds to take down the glass. Next, they move the bleachers and risers out, after which the crew lays the court down. Nelson likened the basketball court to a giant puzzle, consisting of “what seems like a million different pieces to fit in place.” Finally, the crew sets up hundreds of chairs across the arena for both the teams and for fans. Smaller tasks delegated to the bull gang include covering certain sponsors with black tape, depending on the event.
With men's and women’s teams for both hockey and basketball, Conte is a building in perpetual motion. While their work may go unnoticed to the average student, the bull gang is a critical part of BC athletics.
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