In Eugene, Ore., the Oregon Ducks, the athletic department and its facilities pose a huge presence within the small town. Matt Knight Arena, the new multimillion dollar basketball stadium, is the ‘U.F.O’ on campus, while Autzen Stadium and PK Park stand on the other side of the river as ever-reminding symbols of Duck athletic prowess. Athletes, coaches and trainers work, day in, day out to meet the expectation of their fans, sponsors and fellow students.
But behind the shiny doors and in the belly of the beast is where work is also done. Emily Volk works for the University’s athletic department doing different jobs ranging from working in the food and drink ‘bar’ at the Casanova Center and Matt Knight Arena, to grounds work at Autzen Stadium, to working audio at PK Park. Volk started working last fall, after her mom “got me hooked up with the girl who was the bar manager – she asked me to do it, and I started the week after. I think they were hiring people because the fall [football] camp is the busiest time.”
Her experience at the job working the ‘bar’ was a unique one, with different demands and requirements part of her every day expectations. “At first I didnt really didn’t like it, because I’m really bad under pressure [but] I don’t know, over the course of like a month, I finally got used to it… its the weirdest job I’ve ever had.”
The University of Oregon athletic department hires students every year to complete work in the summer in preparation for the demands of the fall athletics season and upcoming year. Grounds work such as weeding the berm around Autzen Stadium, water-blasting the stadium seating and painting the inside of the Moshofsky Center is grueling, even for the most hardened outside worker. Autzen Stadium is known to be consistently ranked among the nation’s top 10 venues to watch a college football game, so the effort in maintaining the top-notch image is important.
Volk uses verbs like “grueling”, “intense” and “hard” to describe the intense work expected from the student employees during the summer months. And not only is the work all summer long, but five days a week with few days off. Volk states that over the weeks “it is really intense, then football games start and it is a mad house. The three weeks leading up to the football games are high intensity.”
At $10 an hour, the pay is “fine”, with every year returning to work earning the students another 25c extra. Autzen Stadium, PK Park and Matt Knight Arena appear to keep themselves beautiful over the summer but only few know much hard work is actually put in. “Nobody really understands that there are people behind-the-scenes, doing all this, people show up at football games and just expect music to be there, and grounds to be cleared, ” believes Volk.
As with other venues and settings all over Eugene, Oregon and the wider United States, the behind-the-scenes work is vastly overlooked. These students work hard, sweaty hours making money to pay for their education and in return, the University of Oregon’s athletic grounds look beautiful. Volk states that despite some complaining, she looks upon the work as a positive. “The only thing I can say is that I always enjoy it and I get something out of it. […] it makes me appreciate when I go to a game and I’m not doing it, I know someone has done [the work].”