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St. Vincent College goes from Steelers' training camp to campus again

| Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2011

As the last Steelers player packs his bag and loads his flat-screen TV this afternoon, workers at St. Vincent College won't be around to wish him luck in the upcoming season.

They'll be preparing for a season of their own: the fall semester.

About 30 workers will converge on the school to make the transformation from football training camp to college campus before students begin to arrive next week. Furniture will be moved, floors will be scrubbed, and tents and signs will be taken down to turn the Steelers' summer home into a home for about 2,000 students.

Larry Hendrick, St. Vincent's director of facility management, said the tear-down process actually starts a few days before the team breaks camp. Nearly a mile of temporary fence, used for security, starts to dwindle as the end of camp nears.

"Right away, we start removing the fence after the last practice open to the public," Hendrick said. "The Steelers help with our planning. They free up small areas here and there where we can start to get ready. They are very helpful."

While the majority of the student body does not arrive on campus for another week -- move-in dates are Aug. 25 and 26 -- about a third of the students who participate in the college's athletic programs begin to arrive Thursday. The football team arrives even before then for its camp, which is planned around the Steelers' practice times.

"We have to transform our gym locker area from a pro football locker room to a college locker room for our teams," Hendrick said. "The Steelers are set up for football activities, and we need to move our equipment around because they need a lot more space. So, we have to get our stuff set up again."

Along with the locker rooms, grounds crews need to take care of the football field by repainting the lines to suit the college game. Other work has to be done as well.

"We clean up the grounds where we have the Steelers Experience -- our baseball field -- and get that back up so the team can start practice in a few weeks," Hendrick said. "A lot of maintenance has to go into the areas where the fence was because that's where the fans stand."

While grounds crews take care of the fields, other workers attend to the dormitories. It takes about 14 hours to clean both St. Benedict Hall and Rooney Hall, the dorms that house the players for three weeks, Hendrick said.

Many players bring their own furniture, he said. That includes larger beds, televisions, recliners and even full-sized refrigerators. About 40 percent of the furniture, he said, has to be removed from the rooms to make space for the players' belongings.

"When (the Steelers') stuff is going out the door, we're putting our stuff back in -- wardrobe, beds, desks," Hendrick said. "One suite, which houses four students, is turned into a video room for coaches. Anywhere from 75 to 100 rooms have to be filled."

The students' stomachs have to be filled as well, and dining services director Leo Cavanaugh said it's also a transitional period for his crew as they go from feeding a little more than 200 players, coaches and media members to feeding almost 2,000 students.

"That transition begins pretty early," Cavanaugh said. "We get sports teams in this Friday, and we have to feed about 200 to 300 athletes. Beyond that, we have to dismantle the Steelers' dining room that is attached to our student dining area to make more room for the students."

A lot of planning is required for food services as deliveries arrive five days a week, Cavanaugh said. The staff has to sit down and plan out menus and special theme nights while upping the quantity of food ordered.

"It's really an ongoing process -- a constant transition -- to begin for the school year," he said. "We probably start about a month in advance planning menus, but things can change."

While his crews may have a week before students move in this year, that isn't always the case, Hendrick said. In the past, he said, the college has had less than a day to make the transition.

"It always depends on when the preseason games fall," Hendrick said. "Sometimes we've only had 24 hours. We did it, though."

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