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Game Makers Interview with John Tassone, University Arenas at RIT

Monday, December 14, 2020 9:00 AM by Rachel Laber Pulvino

The Gordon Field House and Activities Center at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) is one of the major indoor athletic venues in the Greater Rochester area. 

As part of our Game Makers series, featuring the people and organizations who make sporting events in Rochester, NY possible, we caught up with John Tassone, Senior Associate Director, University Arenas at RIT to tell us more about the Gordon Field House and what makes the facility the right choice for future sporting events in Rochester. 

John Tassone, RIT
John Tassone, Senior Associate Director, University Arenas at RIT

What are your responsibilities?

I oversee the events and operations at the Gordon Field House and Activities Center, part of the University Arenas at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT).

We primarily service the RIT campus and community – athletic, recreation and wellness, student organizations, internal departments like admissions and career services, etc. But I also work closely with outside event organizers to plan and execute a wide range of sporting events and competitions.

Indoor track competition at Gordon Field House

Tell us more about the Gordon Field House.

We are a 144,000 sq. foot facility used by both the campus and the community for recreational space. The Gordon Field House also affords event space for gatherings of nearly 8,000 people. In the past we have hosted concerts and comedy shows at the Field House, and we have 2,500 fixed seats available through retractable bleachers that we can use for a variety of events.

Our space can accommodate multiple events at a single time. On average, we manage 8,400 bookings a year that are coming in and out of our facility. Of those 8,400 we service 125 large and major events a year, with about half being internal to RIT and the other half external.

Cheer competition at University Arenas at RIT

What makes the Gordon Field House a unique venue?

We feel we go above and beyond for our customers, spectators and for everyone involved in the event. Throughout the entire event process, from planning, to day of and tear down – our team is committed to client success.

The Gordon Field House also offers spectators a unique upper level mezzanine space, which allows for optimal viewing for indoor events, including track, cheerleading and more.

Indoor Track Competition at Gordon Field House, RIT

What types of events can you host at the Gordon Field House?

We resurfaced the indoor track surface in the field house in 2018, and we believe our track is one of the best in the area right now. And, because our facility is located on a college campus, we have the ability to host NCAA Division-III conference, regional, and national meets and championship events, to go along with heavy use from our local High School Indoor Track League and Section V Indoor Track championships.

We also are a great option for cheerleading events.  In the past we have hosted sectional and state cheerleading championships. We have also hosted sectional championships for wrestling, and we have hosted several regional gymnastics events and are collaborating with USA Gymnastics on some future events.

On campus we’re host to several large, annual student club events including, RIT BrickHack (a computer security “hacking” competition), the RIT Tiger Tracks Train Show and RIT Tora Con, a multi-day anime and cosplay convention.

Lastly, we can use the Gordon Field House for performances and concerts, graduations, exhibits and expos, for fundraising walks and runs and even formal, black-tie galas and events. We have the facility and the team available to host a diverse range of events of all types and sizes.

What are some of the events you’re looking to host in the future?

In the future, we would love to host eSports events, which are a quickly growing field. Our venue’s infrastructure coupled with on-campus support would offer a great venue and atmosphere for a large-scale eSports competition or event in the future.

How has your facility adapted to COVID-19?

Like so many other facilities, we have found new and adaptive uses for the Gordon Field House during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A portion of the Arena Floor has been used as COVID Testing center for students throughout the semester on various occasions. Another portion of the Arena Floor is being used to house RIT’s Fitness Center, which is now comprised of 50 socially distant Fitness Pods created with equipment moved existing Fitness Center).

I’m proud to share that during the fall semester we were able to host wellness classes, ROTC Training, athletic team practices and club sports practices, in accordance with RIT’s COVID-19 Alert Level and with appropriate required COVID-19 Safety plans in place.

Diving Event at Gordon Field House, RIT

Tell us about working with the Rochester NY Sports Commission?

We really enjoy working with the Rochester NY Sports Commission, and we relish those opportunities where we can partner with the commission on bringing in new events to our facility. The work that the ROC Sports Commission does to bring events to our community is a huge benefit.

We believe the Gordon Field House helps make Rochester an attractive destination for sports events. And we’re really happy to be involved in events that bring visitors to our community – we believe the Field House is a great example of what our community has to offer when people come in for events.

Wrestling meet at RIT Gordon Field House

Anything else you want to share with us?

I want to recognize our campus community partners within RIT, who we collaborate with to host events in our facility. We couldn’t put on the events that we do without them. Our partners within the campus community to name a few– facilities management department, tech crew and production services, RIT public safety, RIT Dining and campus concessions – are integral to our success.  I also want to recognize all our staff within University Arenas (both professional and student).  All the events and activities we put on take a great deal of work, often requiring long and non-traditional hours.  We ask a lot of our staff and they always deliver!

 

Author: Rachel Laber Pulvino

Rachel Laber Pulvino is the Director of Market Communications & Public Relations for Visit Rochester. In this role, she has the privilege of telling the stories about the people and places that make Rochester (her hometown!) one of the top destinations in the country for visitors, meetings, conventions and sporting events. 

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