The end was the beginning

Jinae West

Custodians work through the night to clean up stadium

After the crowd dispersed and all that was left of a once roaring Dix Stadium were empty plastic cups and strewn ticket stubs, the custodial crew’s night was just getting started.

Carol Boyle and Terri Burrell were two of the workers for Saturday’s graveyard shift, which is considered overtime and typically begins at 5 p.m. and ends around 1 a.m.

“But if we’re not done until then, we’re here until we finish,” said Boyle, custodial crew leader.

Between the four of them, their duties include cleaning the ticket booth areas, press boxes, locker rooms, conference rooms, hallways and bathrooms. Boyle said she thinks students clean the bleachers the following day.

“There’s a lot to be done in a little amount of time,” Boyle said.

Burrell, who has worked as a custodian at Kent State for 18 years, said she doesn’t consider cleaning the stadium to be an overwhelming task.

“It’s not that bad once you get used to it,” she said. “Nothing really surprises me anymore. I just go with flow, you know what I mean? Sometimes I do have my own opinions on things, and I’m very vocal, but I like working with the athletes.”

But Burrell said the men’s basketball games are the exception, as the M.A.C. Center is not especially fun to clean up.

“It be some work up in there,” she said, laughing. “You know, at the Kent vs. Akron game, it drew over 6,000 people, and you have to clean that place top to bottom. You’ve got to sweep floors, mop floors, mop seats, the bleachers and the gym floor. All that has to be finished before you can do anything else.”

But the keys to getting the job done seem to be staying busy and having a good group of people who know what they’re doing. All four custodians have been at Kent State for more than 10 years and, at this point, work in sync with each other.

In the women’s restroom, which felt more like a sauna due to the lack of air movement and muggy weather conditions, Boyle wiped down countertops and mirrors while Burrell grabbed a mop and started cleaning individual stalls. Another mopped the floor with the hall machine that looks like a miniature version of a driverless Zamboni.

“My crew is excellent,” Boyle said. “You know Terri? Well, if you need someone to wax your floors, get her to do it, and you don’t have a problem.”

“Two more years and I get my rocking chair,” Burrell said, jokingly.

“Two more years and a rocking chair,” Boyle repeated with a smile. “That’s our reward.”

Burrell said a lot of students don’t realize what she and her co-workers do or even think how they can leave a stadium trashed one game and have it suddenly clean and sparkling for the next.

“I asked this one kid, ‘How do you think this floor was swept?’ And he said, ‘I don’t know,’ and he really didn’t know,” Burrell said. “They just don’t realize everything’s back to normal.”

Boyle gave a tour of the rooms she and her staff cleans, beginning with the press boxes where most of the media and various Kent State employees sit during games. She ran down a laundry list of tasks, summed up neatly in a phrase she repeated throughout the interview: “Everything has to be in its place.”

Although most people had left the press box by that time, a few remained. Boyle made an effort to exchange pleasantries with each, though one was a bit short with her.

On the elevator ride to the ground floor, Boyle said some people talk to the custodians and some don’t, and the world would be a better place if everyone just said hello to everyone else on occasion.

The tour continued as she made her way to the space underneath the stadium. The hallway was long, narrow and sprawling and needed to be vacuumed. The locker rooms reeked of dried sweat and were littered with used gauze, mouth guards and blue Powerade cups. The chairs needed to be folded or in a line in all of the conference rooms. And those floors, too, needed to be swept.

By 1 a.m., everything had to be in its place.

“We’ll get it all cleaned and ready for tomorrow,” Boyle said as she walked through the visiting team’s locker room, surveying the mess.

She let out a small sigh.

“We’re going to be a little while tonight.”

Contact buildings and grounds reporter Jinae West at [email protected].