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Sanford Center readied for Globetrotters (with video)

Workers carefully set down the heavy glass using a forklift and suction cups Tuesday at the Sanford Center. John Hageman |Bemidji Pioneer2 / 2

BEMIDJI – The Bemidji State women’s hockey team held practice at the Sanford Center Tuesday, and by Thursday morning, the Western Michigan Broncos will be practicing for their weekend bout with the Beavers.

In between, there will be a basketball game.

About a dozen workers spent their New Year’s Day converting the ice into hardwood for the Harlem Globetrotters event there Wednesday evening.  

“The building itself is designed to do exactly this, to go from one event to another” said Mike Cronin, associate executive director at the Sanford Center. “That’s what’s so nice about the Sanford Center.”

Workers pull out the glass behind the visiting team’s bench Tuesday at the Sanford Center.

Since it opened in 2010, the facility has hosted concerts, a rodeo and wrestling, as well as hosting Bemidji State hockey. The Globetrotters also played there last year.

It’s the second time the floor has been converted to a basketball court for a public event, and the first time it’s been done in the middle of the hockey season.

Joel Conway, the operations manager for the Sanford Center, said the most tedious part of the process is removing the glass from the floor. Each piece of tempered glass weighs 300 pounds, requiring a forklift with suction cups to remove most of them, Conway said.

On Tuesday, workers guided the forklift into place and carefully moved the glass. Another crew removed the glass behind the benches by hand.

But before that, crews covered the ice with the dozens of black plastic-like boards to protect the ice and keep the court warm. Later in the night, crew members planned to lay the court itself, which snaps together like a jigsaw puzzle.

“The actual changeover process … usually takes about six hours,” Conway said. “It’s just a matter of we’re putting a basketball court up instead of a stage.”

Once the crowd clears the stands after the Globetrotters perform their patented slapstick style of basketball, the process will begin in reverse so the arena will be ready in time for the Beavers this weekend.

Basketball hoops wait to be set up Tuesday at the Sanford Center before the Harlem Globetrotters event there Wednesday night.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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