Alex and Randy Lilley can dish stories about Adirondack Bank Center better than anyone and that’s because they have seen at all in their nearly two decade tenure.
Name an act or a sporting event that has passed through the arena over the past two decades-plus, and the Lilleys can offer behind the scenes details not many others experienced. Wonder what it's like caring for Utica Comets' ice, or what it takes laying the basketball floor for when the Harlem Globetrotters come to town, Alex and Randy are your best sources.
The Lilleys are part of a 16-member team of arena staff who care for ADK Bank Center's overall operation.
Randy Lilley is easily identifiable while on the job during Comets' home games. While either driving one of the two Zambonis on game night or assisting in a quick repair of a broken glass panel, Randy is constantly working on a lollipop. Seeing him chomping on the white stick is a signature piece of a Comets game night.
For Randy, being part of the caretaking team of ADK Bank Center at the Utica Memorial Auditorium traces back to 1995. President Bill Clinton occupied the White House, a gallon of regular gasoline averaged $1.11, Toy Story was the top movie maker, and UHL hockey ruled at The AUD with the Blizzard.
Yeah, Randy's been punching the clock at the arena that long.
"When I was married, my father-in-law knew the supervisor (Frank LaBella - director of operations), and that's how I started," says arena operations' senior member.
Although he's on the clock, in listening to Lilley run down a list of his daily chores, you get a clear understanding of how special these duties are for him. Stories begin to flow of setting up for the Globetrotters, or preparing the stage area for concerts, and taking down hockey glass.
Chairs. Lilley, along with his teammates, are an authority on setting up seating. At times, as many as 2,500 chairs have been called for. Each chair and row has to be set according to a detailed map like an extreme game of battleship. And then, there is putting them away and storing them for the next big event.
Older brother, Alex Lilley first joined in on pampering The AUD with his brother back in 2000. He sees signs regularly of his longevity of being on the job.
"High school kids are now playing college hockey," jokes Lilley, who was taught how to drive a Zamboni by his brother Randy.
Both Randy and Alex talk of the crew they are part of as family. Each member is an integral part of an event's overall success. Learning the many requirements an event calls for is critical. For hockey, the ice surface is priority one.
"Frank (LaBella) taught me how to drive (Zamboni) after one week here. Now, I teach others how to drive," says Randy Lilley.
WWE, monster trucks, Lipizzan horses, motorcross, Ziyara Shrinner's Circus, and of course college and professional hockey, are what keeps the Lilley brothers enjoying their work. Nothing is normal about entertainment except the unpredictability.
"Godsmack. The Undertaker. They were pretty cool to meet," Alex Lilley tells.
"Dierks Bentley. The Dudleys," Randy Lilley ranks as among the more interesting people he's "bumped into" while on the clock.
Showtime is an added bonus to preparing ADK Bank Center for the Lilleys. However, they, and fellow arena ops personal are at the ready - at all times. For example, basketball.
For the Globetrotters, the Lilleys assist in laying two different floors. This turnover of the arena floor requires three-and-a-half to four hours. Throw in setting up the basketball backboards and chairs, and you're compounding hours upon hours. This is man hours for the Lilleys and their co-workers few see, but indirectly fans appreciate.
The more the Lilleys tell their story, it's clear what they do isn't so much a job but a service to their community. Fans are counting on the puck drop or curtain to rise on time. The Lilleys and the rest of the arena staff are that insurance ticket buyers count on.
For last months' AHL All-Star Classic, for three days, the Lilleys put in 12-hour shifts. They tell of "running over time", at some points. Keeping to a schedule could be difficult at times. The Lilleys begin around 4:00 p.m. for a hockey game, and could head for home by as late as 2 a.m.
On game nights, Randy and Alex assist in preparing goal nets and keeping them clean, drilling holes in the ice to keep the nets in place, scrapping and edging the ice regularly, and sharing in resurfacing the ice.
Arena ops members to stay close to the playing surface during game time, just in case. If a glass panel breaks, they are the point people to make the critical change. Suction cups, vacuum cleaner, drill, and other assorted tools are at the ready.
Alex explains such a repair is expected to be completed in under five minutes.
Adrenaline is pumping for sure, for Randy and Alex, as ADK Bank Center events are ready to begin. On days when there is no entertainment booked, it's all about taking care of their "baby". Clean, repair, improve, that's what arenas ops people do.
The show must go on. Thank you, Lilley brothers for being a part of the process.
written by - Don Laible