Note: It is said that we must give our children two gifts: roots
and wings. Roots and Wings is an occasional series by The Daily
Standard on promising young adults, natives of the Grand Lake
St. Marys area who are facing new and interesting challenges
as they make their way in the wide world.
By JEAN ZEHRINGER GIESIGE
The Ervin J. Nutter Center opened on the campus of Wright State
University in Dayton in 1990 and since then has become the second-highest
grossing facility for its capacity in the United States, and
the fourth-highest in the world.
One reason for the success of the facility is its flexibility;
it can accommodate small groups in its conference and meeting
rooms, or, at full capacity, it holds 12,500 people.
And Ryan Fullenkamp is responsible for finding every one of
them a seat.
Fullenkamp, 26, a 1995 graduate of St. Henry High School and
the son of Steve and Carol Fullenkamp of St. Henry, is a senior
operations coordinator at the Nutter Center, where he has worked
full-time since 1999. He supervises crews of workers who set
up and tear down after each of the Nutter Center’s various
events, from sports tournaments to ice shows to Cher.
“There’s a lot of physical labor involved, and there’s
a lot of thought that goes into all the planning for the events,
too,” Fullenkamp said. “We want to make sure everything’s
safe and ready to go when the people start arriving.”
The Nutter Center is now in the midst of its busy season, which
stretches from October through the end of March, Fullenkamp
said. It is touring season for many musical performers, and
the heart of high school and college sports seasons as well.
The Nutter Center is home to both the Wright State University
basketball teams (men’s and women’s) and the Dayton
Bombers professional hockey team.
Crews at the center have to prepare for each event, and are
often working to prepare the center for more than one event
per day. “A lot of people don’t realize it, but
something is always going on in that building,” he said.
“It’s the boss’s job to get as many events
booked into the building as possible, and it’s our job
to figure out how we’re going to get it all done.”
When a big musical act comes to the Nutter Center, the center’s
crew has plenty of help from the performer’s own staff,
Fullenkamp said. Cher’s show earlier this year, for instance,
required 70 stage hands. The out-of-town crew arrives first
thing in the morning to work on the technical details, “and
we work with them to answer questions and help out. Their stuff
always fits in differently than they think it’s going
to,” he said. Once the technical crew is finished, “they
give us a drawing of what they want, and a list of stuff they
need, and we go to work.”
It’s an amazing process, he said. “If you ever go
to a show, try to stay around afterwards until they kick you
out. It’s fascinating to see how fast they can tear it
all down,” he said. “At Cher’s show, in two-and-a-half
hours, they had everything out and the trucks all loaded. It
was phenomenal to see.”
Fullenkamp went to work at the Nutter Center after trying his
hand at the drafting and design program at Sinclair Community
College in Dayton. But he learned during an internship that
he wasn’t cut out for desk work. “I hated it. There
was no way I could sit behind a computer in an office all the
time,” he said.
An avid outdoorsman who once owned his own small construction
company in St. Henry, Fullenkamp said he felt much more at home
in a job where he could do some physical work.
And he does jump right into the work, said his supervisor, John
Cox. “Ryan knows that a supervisor has to be willing to
work, too, to put his hands on the equipment and get the job
done,” Cox said. “He has good common sense, and
can turn around and be a personnel booster, a guy who has the
patience to say to a part-time crew, OK, this is how we do it.”
Unfortunately, Fullenkamp isn’t doing much of anything
just now. Six weeks ago, while scouting locations for a deer
stand, he fell out of a tree and suffered a compound fracture
to his leg and will spend as many as 16 weeks on crutches. It
has been an eventful year; in July, he married his wife, Andrea,
a fourth-grade teacher.
He’s anxious, he said, to get back to work in the building
that he knows so well. But it will be a while before he can
travel over every part of the center. “I know for sure
I’m not going to be out on the ice for a while,”