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Saturday, 31 January 2009 19:00

The Challenge of Cleaning for Sports

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When the subject of challenging cleaning situations comes up, I always think of the years that our company cleaned for the athletic department of a major southeastern university. The main sports were football in the fall, basketball in winter and baseball in the spring.

When the subject of challenging cleaning situations comes up, I always think of the years that our company cleaned for the athletic department of a major southeastern university. The main sports were football in the fall, basketball in winter and baseball in the spring. We were responsible for the other sports, but the majority of it was for the big three.

Football started in August with all the players reporting to campus. The locker rooms were used almost nonstop as players got ready for practice, rested between practices, and then practiced again! Our goal was to keep the facility clean and organized during this time of structured chaos. We had the staff constantly policing the areas and anticipating what was going to happen next. The staff and players were working extremely hard getting in shape, so keeping the facility clean made that process easier.

The Clemson Memorial Stadium in Clemson, SC was the biggest challenge. In order for the 80,000-seat stadium (that had not been used since last season) to be ready for opening day, a thorough cleaning had to be performed. We divided the stadium into areas of responsibility, including locker rooms, seating area, restroom and concourses. We then assigned teams to clean each area. The teams were given their work schedule for opening day. Bad weather and unforeseen delays were always a possibility, so we had Plan B to fall back on. Having planned activities to keep the crew moving when you hit a roadblock was important, because time was a limited resource: Opening day did not move.

Once the season began, the focus shifted from the pre-season work, which was cleaning and stocking the stadium, to handling the games. We broke this into three phases: pre-game, game time and postgame – all with their own challenges. The pre-game activities consisted of stocking the stadium with all the disposable items that would be consumed during the game. Touching up areas that were cleaned usually included windows and cleaning the aisles of debris. Game day consisted of staffing the restrooms and concourses to take care of all mishaps, and to ensure that trash did not back up. We also worked with the university staff if there were any mechanical issues in the restrooms or concourses. This team effort worked very well.


Post-game cleanup started as soon as the crowd left the stadium. Stadium cleanup, as it is called, was the end result of months of planning and preparation. The most important part of the plan was getting the right people lined up. Cleanup was usually done on the Sunday after the Saturday game, with the seven home games spread out over three months. This was definitely part-time work. We found that paying the supervisors a set amount gave them the incentive to get the work done as quickly as possible.

The majority of the workforce was paid hourly and worked part-time on the weekends. Each supervisor had four to seven workers and a designated area they were responsible for. This was why the planning was so important, or you would have 15 to 20 different crews working all over the stadium and surrounding parking lots, picking up trash. The trash-removal crew used trucks and trailers to remove the debris from the staged areas to compactors outside the stadium. With all the different crews working the assigned areas, it was amazing to see how quickly the campus returned to its pristine state.

Planning was the most important part of the cleanup puzzle. When you had so many people working and the pay clock ticking, you could not afford to have people standing around wondering what to do. It was so important to have your supervisors in place and their assignments mapped out.


Basketball was a totally different situation to work and clean. With football, the games were on Saturday, and cleanup was on Sunday in an outside arena. Basketball games could be any day of the week at times from 12:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. in an inside arena. This required a couple of different crews that could work when necessary. Another difference between basketball and football cleaning was the number of fans. Football fans usually numbered between 75,000 to 80,000, while the numbers for basketball ranged between 5,000 and 15,000 depending on the opponent, time of the game and day of the week.

The workforce was scheduled for the expected crowd and the plan was put into motion. It was important to be flexible because of all the factors involved. If the game was scheduled at either lunch or dinner, there would be much more accumulated debris. If there was a promotion for the game, we would have that additional trash to deal with. The most difficult problem was with liquids and the mess they make. The coliseum was inside, so all liquids had to be mopped up before they dried or you would have a large sticky spot, which was more difficult to remove. As in the stadium, having a plan and the ability to adjust to whatever the circumstances were was the key to success.

The final sport was baseball in the spring. The baseball schedule was spread out over three-and-a-half months, with about 60 games. The crowds varied from a few hundred to several thousand. The weekday games were usually light, with the majority of the fans coming on the weekends. Since the schedule was published, it was easier to plan staff requirements to match the crowds. The baseball crowds were the easiest to work with. People usually sit and watch baseball games and take a seventh-inning stretch – and are not rambunctious like the football and basketball crowds.

The responsibility of taking care of athletic facilities is very challenging. The secret is in the planning. It is important to anticipate all the different scenarios that could happen so that you’ll be ready when a problem or “opportunity” happens. There is nothing more rewarding than having a well thought-out plan come together and produce a satisfied customer.

Jim Sheehy is manager, purchasing and maintenance at IH Services and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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