Staff, volunteers work hard to provide fun experience at gym


On Thursday evening, Kirk Manns sits in a purple and white fold-out chair next to the scorer’s table in an empty Lloyd E. Scott Gymnasium.

Manns says there’s something peaceful about being in an empty gym.

However, for Manns, the only thing that’s better than an empty gym is a full one.

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Today, the third-largest high school gym in the nation — like it has over the past three weekends — will flood with bodies.

Few locations have embodied Hoosier Hysteria like the LSG this postseason for boys basketball.

Fans from across the state have fled to the 8,110-seat basketball mecca to get a chance at seeing New Albany and senior phenom Romeo Langford.

With nearly sold-out crowds at every game, it has taken a platoon of staff and volunteers to ensure fans get the best experience possible when visiting.

Win or lose for New Albany, the madness will come to a close at Seymour tonight in the semistate round.

While there’s a bit of relief for those working behind the scenes, they all know that they’re a part of something special — and a part of them doesn’t want it to end.

Months before the fans started lining up outside the gym doors for sectional, Manns and staff were figuring out the best plan of attack for the incoming crowds.

Manns, Assistant Athletic Director Dave Urbanski, former Seymour Athletic Director Mickey Beck and Athletic Administrative Assistant Shirley Knecht knew they had a tough challenge ahead.

“We start preparing for the whole tournament season well before the start of the new year,” Manns said. “We started taking care of what we could in advance. Once we got to February, we dug in to more of the specifics. We gathered the event staff and had meetings and discussed all the things that help run a successful tournament.”

Seymour High School Principal Greg Prange said those in charge of the tournament games face a tall task.

“There is no better core of people to run this tournament than Kirk Manns, Dave Urbanski, Mickey Beck, Shirley Knecht and all of the teachers and staff that work these tournaments,” Prange said. “It’s like planning a wedding for 8,000 guests and doing it over and over six times in 17 days. All of the organization, planning, meetings, food preparation, logistics, parking and emergency situations that these people deal with on a constant basis would drive most people batty. They constantly make adjustments, all to make the tournament environment fun and safe for players and spectators.”

Not only has Seymour hosted the sectional, regional and semistate for the boys, but they also had the girls basketball sectional in 2018.

“We were really blessed and cursed that we had the girls sectional before the boys sectional,” Urbanski said. “That started the dialogue of things we might need to change for the boys sectional.”

The opening and semifinal games of the boys tournament drew near sell-out crowds before a massive turnout for the finals. In the championship game between Floyd Central and New Albany, fans waited outside for almost eight hours before tip.

A half-hour before tip, it was standing room only.

Langford, who currently ranks fourth all-time in state history with 2,967 points, has sold out almost every gym he has stepped in all year. Going into the semistate, Langford is 167 points behind former Bedford North Lawrence star Damon Bailey’s record.

Last weekend proved much of the same with fans getting right back in line after the afternoon game for the night cap.

On Craigslist, tickets for the semistate in Seymour could be found for $55 on Friday. Rumors have circulated that some parties are selling tickets privately for $100 or more.

Manns estimated it takes nearly 100 people on site to make sure everything runs smoothly.

“There are so many different areas to consider,” Manns said. “You want to think about your security and police force, the people we have in school that are helping supervise and give information, all the concession workers and the custodial staff. There are so many moving parts that need to come together to accomplish this.”

He said head custodian Joe Krebbs and all of the custodians have done a superb job of keeping the gym in top shape, and they faced a gargantuan challenge with preparing the facility between regional games.

Manns estimated there are nearly 20 custodians working after each game, and there are similar numbers for concession workers during the games.

Seymour teachers and volunteers can be found scattered throughout the gymnasium at every game.

With so many people in one location, security is a top concern.

At today’s semistate, there will be around 20 officers providing security at the high school.

Agencies include the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, Seymour Police Department and Indiana State Police.

Tyler Goodpaster, a reserve officer for the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, has worked some of the games.

He said there haven’t been many issues despite having so many people in one location.

“Outside, we’ve dealt with people who bicker about cutting in line or who will be first to get through the door,” Goodpaster said. “Inside, we’ve dealt with people arguing over seats and stealing others’ seats when people get up. For the other 99 percent of the fans, they were appreciative and thankful for our service and how smooth the events have gone.

“The atmosphere can be tense at times when the winning team storms the court,” he said. “Everyone lines up to take pictures and get autographs from Romeo. Our job is to keep people from overwhelming him all at once. Everyone wants to be around him.”

Urbanski said Carl Lamb, captain of the Seymour Police Department, also has been instrumental in helping keep all of the security organized.

The fans aren’t the only ones fleeing to Seymour.

Jay Hubbard, who radio broadcasts all of the Seymour games with Bud Shippee on 92.7 Nash Icon, is in charge of the media requests.

Hubbard has worked with the media coming to Seymour for 16 years and said he received 68 requests for today’s semistate games — the most he has ever seen.

Curt Nichols, who has announced games over the PA for the regular and postseason at Seymour for almost 16 years, said he hasn’t seen crowds like this in years.

“Undoubtedly, demand for tickets is off the charts, maybe compared only to the Damon Bailey years,” Nichols said. “If you were to tell someone from out of state your gym holds 8,110 people and we could have sold maybe twice that many for a high school game, they wouldn’t believe you. From where I sit at the scorer’s table, I look around and see every seat full with standing room only in all four corners. People are willing to watch from that vantage point is unbelievable.

“Again, it’s Indiana high school basketball at its best with one of the best high school players in the country as the main attraction. Prior to the Langford years, we would certainly have plenty of seating in what otherwise would be a normal year. The IHSAA selects Seymour to host sectional, regional and semistate just for that purpose — because of the large capacity of the gym and most importantly because of the fact that it is so well run by Seymour High School AD Kirk Manns and staff.”

Nichols, a 1977 Seymour grad, takes his job seriously along with the rest of the staff.

“The bar is raised pretty high, and I really want to be professional in what I do to help build a unique atmosphere at LSG,” Nichols said. “I think the event demands that level of commitment. Memories for many families, players and coaches are being made each game and will be looked back upon for years to come. On top of that, I have a chance to meet special people, such as Indiana University coach Archie Miller, or the radio voice of the Hoosiers, Don Fischer, which is really a thrill. I know I can say that Don Fischer sat right by me, and I’m the one who had the microphone.”

Nichols feels Seymour continues to leave a legacy in Indiana basketball history.

“Barney Scott and the administration of Seymour High School nearly 50 years ago had the vision to build a gymnasium that would have a lasting impact on the community and the game of basketball in Indiana,” Nichols said. “Even after all these years, Lloyd E. Scott Gymnasium is on the short list of places you must go to experience Indiana high school basketball at its best.”

Last weekend, Seymour had to make special accommodations for special guests like Miller.

“We try to prepare for it because we need to have space for those people, too,” Manns said. “It has added to the environment and hysteria. We will have some more special guests (today). We are doing the best we can. We have really tried to make improvements of the game management and making it a great experience for everyone involved.”

While Manns is ready for a much-deserved rest from the intense preparations, he feels privileged to have the opportunity to help.

“I haven’t seen anything like this, and I don’t know many who have,” Manns said. “It is amazing. It’s Hoosier Hysteria, and we are getting to live it. It’s not like this everywhere, and I don’t know anywhere else that is like this. It’s a fantastic atmosphere. The kids that are on the floor need to appreciate it and take it in. The fans are piling in here because they know this is special and want to be a part of it.”

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