SU People

 

Schmitt Shoots!!

 

Pete Sala |

The Dome-inator

Pete Sala, assistant director of facilities operations at the Carrier Dome, emerges from the tunnel opening up to the Dome floor and directs student employees to different sections of a giant jigsaw puzzle, better known as the SU men’s basketball court. He and his crew piece together the 217 interlocking wooden panels to create the seamless playing floor. In a similar fashion, Sala brings together the various parts of his job to lay the foundation for efficient operation of Dome events. Now in his 21st year of service at the Dome, he works diligently, sometimes even through the night, so that events run smoothly. “I don’t have the typical 9-to-5 workday,” Sala says. “No two days are alike, and it’s great to have that variety.”

Sala, who grew up in the Syracuse area, remembers when Archbold Stadium was torn down in 1979 to make room for the Dome. He began working at the Carrier Dome in 1982 as a production assistant while on vacation breaks from the University of Massachusetts. “I started at the bottom and worked my way up to my current position,” he says. “That’s how you learn all the aspects of such a huge facility.”

The students who act as production assistants for Sala consider him their boss, but more importantly, a friend. “Pete is really understanding of students’ responsibilities, and he’s willing to accommodate the needs of his student employees,” says Jayson Weinstein ’03, who worked with Sala for three years. “He makes the job fun and understands that people are people first and then employees.”

The stadium, which seats 50,000 and is the largest on-campus sports venue in the country, requires a great amount of caretaking. Sala oversees all of the Dome’s maintenance requirements, as well as the setup and tear-down of events. “Anything that goes on at the Dome comes to me,” he says. “I’m responsible for making sure it gets done right.” That responsibility leaves Sala with a full schedule. Along with SU football, basketball, and lacrosse games, the Dome also hosts such events as concerts, NCAA tournaments, convocation ceremonies, and the annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration.

Sala says his most rewarding event is the NCAA basketball tournament’s East Regional. “We know we’ll send a team to the Final Four,” he says. “We work hard to make this place look like a million bucks for the tournament.” Concerts are also a highlight, even though they require a tremendous effort, he says. Since his start at the Dome, Sala has been around for a number of shows and loves the behind-the-scenes work that comes with hosting a concert. Setting up dressing rooms and helping roadies construct monstrous stages for such musicians as Billy Joel and Garth Brooks add to the excitement. “I like the people I meet through Dome events,” he says. “The job allows me to interact with people from all over the world.”

Along with his work at the Dome, Sala spends many weekends during the football season traveling with the team to assist on the field. He remains on the sidelines at away games to ensure coaches can communicate on their headsets without any technical difficulties. After each road trip, he looks forward to coming home to his wife, Laurie, and their 4-year-old son, Jake, who occasionally gets treated to an insider’s view of the massive arena.

With so many pieces to put into place each day, Sala has learned to appreciate the job and its opportunities. “I like my position because I perform so many different functions,” he says. “I could be setting up for the Empire State Games one day and then getting ready for football practice or an alumni dinner the following day.”

—Kristen Swing

 

 

Schmitt Shoots!!


Yvonne Buchanan
| Eclectic by Design

Yvonne Buchanan, professor of art and design at SU’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, is passionate, eclectic, productive, and ambitious. Known mainly for her drawing, she has illustrated six children’s books, including Fly Bessie, Fly (Simon & Schuster, 1998)—a biography of Bessie Coleman, the first African American woman aviator. “You