HOUSTON — Before Luke Bryan waved good night to the crowd inside NRG Stadium on Sunday night, work was already underway to convert the home of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo into the home of the NCAA Men's Final Four.
Crews worked behind the scenes tearing down the pens that held rodeo animals for the past three weeks. Then, as soon as the lights came up after the event's final concert of 2023, the real work started.
"We’re cleaning this building head to toe. We’re changing out air filters. We’re painting walls," said Leah Mastaglio, NRG Park Assistant General Manager. "We’re doing all of the things."
The biggest challenge was removing the dirt from what was the rodeo arena. Once the stage was broken down and moved out and all of the rodeo fencing was hauled away, excavators moved in. For hours, they scooped and dumped the dirt into massive piles, what would add up to 580 dump truck loads. Then dozens of dump trucks rolled in, loaded up and hauled the dirt out.
Meanwhile, there are other breakdowns happening in other parts of the stadium, including the removal of the action seats, as well as a clean-out of the dressing and locker rooms.
"Communication is the linchpin to all of this because there's so many different entities involved in actually transitioning something like NRG Stadium into from Rodeo into the Final Four," said Justin Chance, HLSR Rodeo Ops Committee Chairman.
Those entities include paid HLSR staffers, but also dozens of volunteers with Rodeo Ops, Facility Services, Recycling and other Rodeo committees, plus all the NRG Park crews.
"It all takes planning and getting the schedules to mesh because there are desires and goals from the NCAA to move in and our desires and goals to have a good safe and productive move-out," said Mike Demarco, HLSR Chief Show Operations Officer. "Sometimes they climb on top of each other because time is time, but, you know, we all make it work."
Outside of NRG Stadium, the rest of NRG Park has to be converted as well. The carnival and everything Rodeo-related in NRG Center must come down to make way for the Final Four.