VAWS - Beyond the Bleachers: Supporting Texas Football’s Home Games

September 20, 2019


The University of Texas at Austin is home to the Texas Athletics program, a wide range of award-winning sports teams of men and women in burnt orange and white, boldly representing their university and its many traditions, including the “Hook ‘em!” war cry and hand signal and the ever-present silhouette of a very popular steer named Bevo. One particular roster of student athletes comes together to form the widely known Texas Longhorns football program. With 32 conference titles since its first season in 1893, the Longhorns have long been supported by a large and loyal fan base who now pack the Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium to cheer on their beloved home team to victory. This venerable team must train well to execute its plays on the field on game day, and much preparation must go into the game plan long before the squad steps onto the field.

Yet there is another team of dedicated men and women in uniform who train and prepare for game day, too. Look closely behind the scenes and you’ll find that supporting the home games at the stadium Texas Stadium takes a multitude of hard-working crews and a whole lot of scheduling to make it happen. Facilities Services, as a part of this team, went beyond the bleachers to share their part in the surprisingly complex yet well-executed game plan to reveal how it all came together for a recent home game.

Before the Football Season

Landscape Services

The point of contact for Landscape Services throughout the football season is Supervisor Curtis Robillard, who has served in this role for 12 seasons. Before the season begins, Markus Hogue and his crew mark all the irrigation lines and work with Texas Athletics (Athletics) to ensure that the university’s tents used for tailgating, music and other event-related activities are marked properly to avoid damage to the underground utility lines. Robillard’s crew is also responsible for placing the orange barrels used to collect trash throughout the main streets leading up to the stadium, picking them back up when the season ends.

Landscape Services’ Urban Forestry team prunes the trees, evaluating clearance for tailgating and RV needs.

Facilities Operations and Maintenance

Each year, the Facilities Operations and Maintenance (FOM) team receives a work order, established by Athletics, to prepare the stadium facilities for the season. This main “make ready” work order is overseen by FOM’s lead for the football games, David Henry, who is the East Campus (Zone 3) supervisor. He is responsible for ensuring the plumbing and heating, air-conditioning and ventilation (HVAC) systems throughout the stadium are working properly. Henry starts his team of plumbers in May to perform the extensive inspections and make any repairs that need to be done. This work is more difficult to do during the hot Texas summer months, and he factors in the important heat safety precautions for his staff. His HVAC team begins work a couple of weeks before the season begins.

Another early-on task for Henry is building the staffing schedule for maintenance services for the football season. He begins the process in June, and finalizes his crew of who will be working the games two weeks prior to the first game. Then each game is scheduled, using this pool of technicians, but not without careful consideration of who he puts where in the stadium. Henry knows from experience that a larger number of issues (approximately 60-70) often arise during the first weeks of the season, and he needs to have his more seasoned staff on board to correct these issues. Then, he staffs the remaining games “depending on how the first game goes.”

Days before Game Day

Landscape Services/Facilities Operations and Maintenance

Starting at the beginning of the week, Robillard’s ground maintenance crew mows the turf by the Performing Arts Center (PAC), Music Building & Recital Hall (MRH), Lyndon B. Johnson Library (LBJ) and around other tailgate areas. Mowing days can vary, based on the weather and other events scheduled before a game.

Early on Tuesday morning, all staff involved in operations are briefed by Athletics at the North End Zone Building (NEZ). Facilities Services representatives are among those present. The briefing is provided for over 100 operational personnel providing services such as catering, safety and operations.  

On Thursday, Robillard’s crew puts out 10 red coal bins in the tailgating areas and then retrieves them the following Monday. The coal bins are used to safely collect barbeque coals used by tailgaters. At the end of the football season he stores them in their tool shed in the East Campus Garage (ECG).

Friday before Game Day

Facilities Operations and Maintenance

FOM’s HVAC controls technician from Zone 3, Armando Ortiz, is responsible for checking the stadium’s suites on Levels 8 and 9 at L. Theo Bellmont Hall (BEL), NEZ and the Stadium building (STD) the morning before game day to ensure the HVAC systems are operating properly. He makes sure they are meeting the temperature set points. When not in use, the suites are in “unoccupied” mode to conserve energy. When the suites will be in use, the controls are switched over to “occupied” mode to allow temperature adjustments for personal comfort. Ortiz then keeps watch on weather conditions that will affect comfort levels in the suites.

The HVAC controls center is located in Manor Garage. The center handles the HVAC systems across all the stadium buildings. Ortiz has been working there for 27 years. He leads a crew of six technicians who work the stadium. Ortiz shares that in his many years in this role, it is a “big team effort” among Utilities & Energy Management (UEM); Project Management and Construction Services (PMCS) crews, such as the Electrical and Carpentry shops; and Facilities Services. Because Texas weather is unpredictable, managing the environment inside the suites can be challenging, but Ortiz and his crew stay on top of things to ensure the occupants’ comfort.

Event & Moving Services

Facilities Services schedules several work units to provide “trash valet” services, which entails picking up and hauling recycling and waste away from the stadium. Pickup trucks from Landscape Services and box trucks from Event & Moving Services (EMS) are used, but the boxes must be lined with plastic to protect them from leaks from the trash bags since the trucks are also used for other purposes, such as moving furniture. The day before a game, EMS staff stay late (typically for two hours) to line the trucks at their loading dock in the Facilities Complex on Manor Road. Staying late this evening are Jesus “Chuy” Gurrola, a crew leader who has been with UT for 21 years, and Luciano Lopez, a materials handler who has been with UT for 12 years. These dedicated workers have done this task many times, and they complete their work efficiently. The lined trucks are then cleaned out on Sunday to ready them for the work week.

Game Day

Landscape Services

It’s Saturday, and game day has arrived! Landscape Services kicks into gear far earlier than the 7:30 p.m. kick-off. Aside from handing out trash bags to tailgaters and collecting waste around the stadium block, this team also assists fans with directions, sets out and fills water barricades for checkpoints, covers city trash cans to avoid overflow, and more.

This is their second season of filling the water barricades, located at between 17 to 24 different checkpoints on campus that are marked by the University of Texas Police Department (UTPD). The barricades block or help to slow the traffic. Landscape Services starts this process at 4 a.m. by taking their large truck with a 2,000-gallon tank and filling up the barricades. It takes them until 11 a.m. to complete the process.

At 1 p.m. Robillard meets with his staff at the Facilities Complex to review any changes or supplemental information and hands out drinks to keep them all well hydrated. He explains that this meeting is important because Athletics makes modifications each year, and his team needs to stay on top of those changes. He credits the successful level of customer service that Landscape Services provides on game day to “the folks who have done it for years and know what they’re doing.” He pairs new staff with his five seasoned “veterans” to “learn what it’s all about.”

Robillard’s staff “go live” for this game day from 2 to 9 p.m. providing grounds support for seven landscaping zones:

  • Mike A. Myers Stadium and Soccer Field
  • Steve Hicks School of Social Work
  • LBJ Library
  • North of the stadium
  • East Campus
  • Tailgate areas
  • Little Longhorn (north of campus by Arno Nowotny Building and John W. Hargis Hall)

This team of 13 pairs up into crews of two per landscaping zone, with the exception of the Little Longhorn zone, which is covered solo by Crew Leader Joan Dilley. She has been with UT since 2012. She says the one thing she likes best about game day is that she gets an opportunity to interact with fans.

Robillard encourages his crew stationed at the tailgating areas to provide fans with recycling or trash bags and provide the best “service with a smile” as “campus concierges.” Throughout game day, they assist with emptying waste and recycling receptacles. The crew shares that they often get questions from fans about proper recycling, compost and landfill waste, and that they have seen an improvement in the diversion rate (landfill avoidance) because of this involvement.

Because a lot of tailgaters hang around for hours after a home page victory, the team stays until two hours after kick-off to collect as much trash as they can. This lessens the amount of trash to be collected on Sunday.

Fire Safety Systems

It’s now 3 p.m. and FOM’s Fire Safety Systems (FSS) team’s first shift is on deck at the Fire Systems room and throughout the stadium. The team consists of six staff. The team arrives four hours prior to the game, and they stay until 30 minutes post game.

FSS has been up and running in the stadium since 2010. The team takes turns rotating between the main buildings, BEL, Moncrief-Neuhaus Athletic Center (MNC) and the north side of the stadium. In their station near the stadium’s Gate 16, they monitor the elevators, smoke ventilation and the fire sprinklers. On hand at this game are Fire Sprinklers Crew Leader Randy Stubblefield, with 16 years at UT; Shop Supervisor Tammy Swaton, with 15 years at the helm; Fire Alarms Crew Leader Joe Sandoval, with 14 years on board; and Fire-Life-Safety Systems Technician Larry Moore, with 3 years on the team.

There are main control rooms on each side of the stadium in BEL, NEZ and STD. FSS staff are stationed at each control area, and there are staff who roam to assist wherever they are needed. They work closely with the Operations Box (“Ops Box”) on the 8th floor of NEZ and the maintenance technicians in the field. For something such as a large leak, they might need FSS, FOM and Custodial Services all involved and working together to get issues resolved quickly. NEZ is the newest side of the stadium, but it is also the most populated in terms of fans on the concourse. Another high-traffic area is BEL’s 11th floor leading to the upper deck. Because of the facility’s age, it can be more challenging to keep functioning properly than the newer parts of the stadium.

Facilities Operations and Maintenance

Also on point on game days is Ortiz and his team. Depending on the game time, staff will come in as early as 6 hours before and turn on Game Day controls. They do a walk-through at all the suites to see if the areas are reaching temperature set points and that there are no issues with airflow.

Ortiz controls all the building automation systems from their command center at Manor Garage. He typically schedules a two-person crew (himself and one other technician) inside the stadium who can troubleshoot issues. Depending on the weather and winds, he will be tweaking multiple settings in different areas the entire time people are in the stadium. He likes being in the background and knowing that all the hard work he does on a game day lets fans have the best “atmosphere” possible. One of the Zone 3 crew members assigned in the field that day is HVAC Technician Carlos Ybarra. He reveals he is learning to navigate around the stadium and “Armando [Ortiz] has the knowledge to give me very accurate and helpful directions.” These precise relays between Ortiz and his team directly impact the quality of the atmosphere they provide to Longhorn fans.

The Ops Box is the “brain” of football game day operations. This comprehensive team consists of operational staff from Athletics, Fire Prevention Services, UTPD, Facilities Services (FS) and others. The FS staff in the Ops Box typically arrive 2 to 3 hours prior to the game and act as a dispatch for any facilities services-related issues. They monitor the calls that come in and dispatch the appropriate technician via radio to respond. They document incidents in Athletics’ computerized integrated work management system and in FS’ work management system. They take notes and photos to fully document the incidents and schedule any work that can’t be done during the game.

Representing FS in the booth is Henry, who has been working for FS for 22 years. In the last eight years he has worked the UT football games, in addition to his everyday duties in Zone 3. He says working the games can be kind of hectic at times, but eventually becomes routine. He is in charge of approximately 30 technicians each game, and is getting used to where they are needed the most. On average, they get about 5-10 calls per game—‘’on a good day,” and as many as 60-70 calls on a more difficult day. Henry shares that this will be his last season at the helm before he retires. He will be missed, but he has diligently brought a couple of other staff up to speed this year to serve in this role so the transition for next year goes smoothly. Operationally, the Zone 3 supervisor is called upon to oversee game day operations on behalf of FS since the stadium is located in this zone.

It’s four hours before the game, and Henry is already at the Ops Box. At this point, he’s assigned work to staff for the calls that have been reported. Assigned technicians radio in when they arrive. At each game, Henry’s team consists of 10-12 electricians, 10-12 plumbers, 2 carpenters and 5 instrumentation and controls technicians, stationed throughout the stadium to respond to any maintenance requests that arise during the game. Henry explains that this multi-departmental and collaborative team consists of technicians from not only FS, but also from PMCS and UEM. He shares that “The FS techs really like this mix because it gives them a chance to interact with other groups and learn more about campus and how other departments do things.”

Technicians are assigned areas around the stadium based on their longevity, skills and Henry’s knowledge of typical problem areas. He does this to reduce response times and to send the right person to fix the issue the first time. He typically sends newer staff with one of the more seasoned technicians so they can learn how to navigate the stadium on a game day and learn as much as possible on the job.

Henry explains that, “Just because the game is over doesn’t mean our work is over.” There are times when issues arise that require the team to stay long after the game has ended because the work cannot be delayed. For example, if there is a plumbing leak, they have to stop the water from flowing so it doesn’t cause damage to other parts of the stadium. “We stay until the issue is resolved,” states Henry.

Stationed to assist the Emergency Operations Command Center (EOC) at the UT police station for this home game is Zone 1 Supervisor Richard “Hud” Huddleston, who has been with UT for 2.5 years. Since Henry is overseeing facilities-related issues from the stadium’s Operations Booth and Swaton is also there leading the FSS crew, it’s up to the remaining FOM shop supervisors to fill the EOC role on behalf of Facilities Services. During the game, Huddleston helps monitor Athletics’ work management system as well as schedule any work that can’t be completed during the game into the facilities’ work management system.

The EOC is there in case any large-scale or campus-wide emergency issues arise and must be coordinated. Further, while the Operations Booth team is on watch from inside the stadium gates and directly outside them, the EOC is responsible for the entire stadium block, including tailgates and checkpoints as well as the transportation of teams, equipment, bands and spirit groups to and from the stadium. Huddleston says that, for the most part, the game day goes without incident, “but that when everyone is doing their job, that’s how it should be.” Often it’s about monitoring what’s going on around campus.

Trash Valet Services

New to Facilities Services this year is the “trash valet” services, carried out by a collaborative team of four different FS work units, who collect and transport waste from the stadium and tailgate areas. How this complex web of waste removal works is no small feat, from collection to transport. Below is the breakdown. Go long!

Custodial Services: Porter Services, Cleaning and Trash Valet Services Collection

Custodial Services (CS) provides porter services, such as cleaning up spills, replenishing restroom paper supplies and soap, as well as cleaning services and waste collection (both landfill and recycling) for the general education buildings on campus. For game day, that means at BEL, from the 4th floor up to the 8th floor. Depending on when the game starts, porter services begin two hours prior.

Their main goals include managing crowds through locking down gates, placing stanchions by escalator landings and then keeping the open part of BEL cleaned and restrooms stocked throughout the game day.

During the past year, the team has worked through some obstacles when leaking pipes in the building made their work more challenging until the repairs could be made. They worked hard to keep everything clean during the game day and the following day.

It’s 6 p.m., and the custodial team has been on the job since around 3 p.m. They’ve been split up into pairs, assigned as a crew of two per floor. Their shift doesn’t end until everyone has left the stadium.

Some of the crew share that they have been with Custodial Services on game days for ten years—the same number of years they’ve been working for FS. One thing that the group says they like the most about game day is when the Longhorns win. “When the longhorns win, people are happy. And when the people are happy, we are happy.” They also point out that when the Longhorns are winning, their fans are not as messy and don't throw their trash on the ground as much. They also like when people say “Thank you” for cleaning up after them because it makes these diligent custodians feel appreciated.

The rest of the stadium’s waste is collected by a crew contracted by Athletics, who leave the collected waste bagged separately for each waste type: landfill, recycling or compost for Athletics staff to cart over to the trucks managed by FS, who then transport the collected waste out of the stadium.

Event & Moving Services, Landscape Services and Solid Waste and Recycling: Trash Valet Services Transport

With this home game’s kick-off at 7 p.m., the trash valet service begins around 5 p.m. and runs all the way until 3 a.m.! The 18-member team is drawn from the following FS work units: Event & Moving Services, Landscape Services and Solid Waste and Recycling. This is a carefully orchestrated process to stay ahead of the waste curve. There are two shifts of crews.

The first shift consists of six materials handlers who are on hand from 5-11 p.m., which is before and during the game. Three two-person crews transport waste using pick-up and box trucks from three strategic service locations (with nearby freight elevators) around the stadium and tailgate areas:

  • Moncrief (STD and MNC)
  • Robert Dedman/Littlefield (east of NEZ)
  • Loading Dock (northwest NEZ and BEL)

The second shift consists of 12 materials handlers who come on board from 9 p.m. until 3 a.m. This larger group of six 2-person crews transports waste twice from the stadium’s same three locations. Supervising the transport is Crew Leader Roy Jones, who is scheduled for the entire duration the trash valet services are provided.

All trash valet crews transport the waste from the stadium to the proper dumpsters at Lot 53 on campus, where on Sunday it is sorted into three categories: landfill, recycling and compost. More details on zero waste efforts are revealed on Sunday, when the waste sorting process takes place.

Sunday after Game Day

Landscape Services

It’s 4 a.m. on Sunday, and Jake Trinkle, an arborist with Landscape Services, has reported for duty on campus to pick up and drain the water barricades that were placed on Saturday. As a member of the landscaping team, he says that when he sees people on campus relaxing under the trees, it makes him happy. He is proud of the way the landscaping contributes to the enjoyment of everyone who comes on campus.

More of the Landscape Services team arrive at the Facilities Complex by 7 a.m. to gather and properly dispose of the waste left strewn on the campus grounds after every home game. In addition to cleaning up after the Bevo Boulevard festivities, this team has been providing post-game grounds clean-up for numerous years.

Typically, it takes the 16-member crew around six hours to complete their work. Multiple trucks are dispatched from the Facilities Complex on Manor Road toward Red River St., San Jacinto Blvd., Robert Dedman Dr. and another truck coming from the south. The crews pick up all of the waste on the road and grounds. They also target E. Martin Luther King Blvd. and head south as they make their way back to the Facilities Complex and then the RV section across from there.

Generally, they are excited to help keep the campus clean. However, there is also disappointment when, after 3-4 home games, the grounds they worked so hard to maintain throughout the year become damaged by the crowds. They rejuvenate the landscape at the football season’s end. It takes them through the end of February. They must get the grounds in top condition before the annual Explore UT event in early March.

Solid Waste and Recycling

It’s 6 a.m. when the Solid Waste and Recycling team (SWR) arrives at the southwest side of the stadium and BEL with their large compactor trucks. On average, they bring two trucks: one for recycling and one for trash. Even though the trash valet services team made multiple trips with multiple trucks to the dumpsters at Lot 53 on campus during game day to keep up with the large volume of waste, there is still a quantity left that must be transported from the stadium to the City of Austin’s waste facilities. This service is the specialty of the SWR team.

The night before, once the stadium was cleared of fans, Athletics brought in a contract crew to do a final sweep of the stadium. The crew gathered and put the waste in different bags for recycling, landfill and composting. They then left the filled bags on the concourse ramps. Now it’s the next morning, and Athletics staff drive around in their carts to gather the bags left on the ramps throughout the stadium and take them out to the SWR team with their compactors parked at Gate 1.

Once all the bags from the stadium have been deposited into the SWR compactors, the team heads back to the Facilities Complex with their full trucks. On Monday, when the City of Austin’s recycling and landfill centers are open, they will come in early and do an extra run to the city’s landfill and recycling facilities to remove the waste from their trucks so they can complete their normal routes that morning as well. Behind the wheel of a recycling compactor this morning is Crew Leader Milton Roberson, Jr. with 18 years at UT and Solid Waste Worker Brian Fisher with 19 years at UT. They both talk about how they appreciate the opportunities that working the games provides.

Custodial Services

It's 8 a.m., and a team from Custodial Services is starting their shift at BEL. The team cleans the whole building, which includes 40 landings and 10 floors. For Sunday after game day, they divide into two 7-person crews: one for the North section and the other for South section. These crews provide floor care, which includes vacuuming, mopping and buffing, as well as restroom cleaning, trash pick-up, removing the stanchions and opening the gates to sealed areas. They will finish around 2 p.m. Crew Leader James Shults is on hand this morning—a departure from his usual night shift. He has been working football games for the past five years. He says that he likes this work because it is something different from his everyday (actually, nightly) duties.

Resource Recovery: Zero Waste

Resource Recovery’s Zero Waste team provides expertise to the Texas Athletics Sustainability program efforts at football games throughout the season at the request of Athletics staff who lead this program. The program’s initiatives have grown significantly over the years, helping the university move toward its sustainability and zero waste goals. According to Athletics, “From the 2017 to 2018 season, the average [landfill] diversion rate at the stadium increased from 47 percent to 52 percent.

Resource Recovery’s zero waste coordinators played a critical role in increasing the impact of these sustainability efforts. In past years, the Zero Waste program staff and student employees have provided guidance on the waste sorting process—monitoring and instructing volunteers in sorting waste into the proper waste stream for recycling, compost or landfill. The zero waste coordinator also provided Athletics with research on compostable packaging and analysis of the waste data. The post-game sorting process has since become more efficient and effective. This year Athletics’ Operations and Sustainability Coordinator Lauren Lichterman has been able to increase the program’s student staff, so they are now able to take on the waste sorting without continuous support from the Zero Waste student employees.

Waste Audit at Gate 1

Each season, Lichterman works with the Zero Waste coordinators to assist with the various aspects of the program. The last task was to conduct a waste audit, which determines if the “back of house” waste is being properly sorted. This waste is not yet included in the large waste-sorting events. These waste audits help to increase diversion rates by revealing where opportunities for improved processes can be implemented.

It’s 10 a.m. and Zero Waste Senior Program Coordinator McKenzie Beverage and Zero Waste Program Coordinator Lindsey Hutchison are on hand at the stadium this morning to perform an audit of the waste bagged by concession vendors. The audit revealed there were indeed diversion opportunities, providing Lichterman with data she can use to make improvements to the proper disposal of waste from the concession areas.

Resource Recovery: Surplus Property

Another way that FS continues to support the program’s sustainability efforts is through the sale of Athletics’ official apparel and equipment via the Surplus Property online auctions and the Surplus Reuse Store. Proceeds from the sale of these Athletics items goes back to Surplus Property to compensate their student staff who sort waste after the games.

Facilities Services’ Home Game Support Completed

It’s the early afternoon and by now the FS crews have completed their post-game work and departed campus before reporting back to work early the following Monday morning. Another home game touchdown scored by the FS team!


Facilities Services has a hard-working and dedicated team who play an integral part in providing operational support to Texas Athletics’ Longhorn football program all season long for every home game. They are part of a long and well-loved tradition at The University of Texas at Austin, of which they are proud to belong and serve. Still, their hard work doesn’t end with football season. These men and women suit up and serve in different ways, such as Fire Safety Systems monitoring alarms during UT basketball games at the Erwin Center, or Landscape Services maintaining the surrounding areas for baseball games at the UFCU Disch-Falk Field. They are there to support these other Athletics home team games, too! Go Longhorns! Hook ‘em!