Gaylord gets ready for SEC Women's Tourney

When the last disappointed Predators fan left for home Tuesday night, the Gaylord Entertainment Center began its transformation from NHL hockey arena into the site of the first-ever women's SEC Tournament to be held in Nashville.

"As soon the game was over," said Mike Wooley assistant general manager for the Gaylord Entertainment Center, "we had our crew was arriving."

There's a lot to be done to gear up for a major event like a basketball tournament. The rehearsal hall becomes media central, with sufficient phone lines, lighting, and furniture to accomodate 225 credentialed representatives from the press. But the most visible transformation is from the ice of the NHL to the hardwood of Southeastern Conference basketball.

First thing to go is the glass surrounding the ice. "It's all tempered glass," said Wooley, "which means it weighs anywhere from 200 pounds to 350 pounds and all that has to be taken out with a special forklift. You can't take it out by hand so it's very labor intensive."

"So that comes out, then we cover the floor with an insulated fiber board. Then we put the basketball floor down and put the carpet around it, then the basketball risers at each end. And then we start doing our fine tuning, which is the tables, the skirting, the setting up of the scoring system, getting the basketball goals out, set, checked, making sure they're at proper height."

By early afternoon on Wednesday, the arena looks almost ready for basketball, down to the SEC logos on the basketball court. But no painters were required. "Those are actually removable panels," Wooley explained. "Those panels replace the Gaylord Entertainment Center name and logo that usually sits in the same place."

"When the SEC made their committment to Nashville and vice versa, they decided they would pay to have those panels done." They were first used last year's for the men's SEC tournament. And when this year's tournament is over, they'll take them out, ready to use again for the next women's tournament in 2004, and the men's tournament in 2006.

The painted basketballs, however, at the free throw lines and at center court became part of the permanent design of the court when the name of building was changed from the Nashville Arena to the Gaylord Entertainment Center a couple of years ago.

As Wooley surveys the arena for carpet that needs to be tacked down or seats that need to be fixed, there's a crew walking through the bowl cleaning up after the 15,000 hockey fans who filled the stands Tuesday night.

"We'll do a walkthrough with the SEC at 4 o'clock and they'll point out anything they see" said Wooley. " If there are things they want us to work on in a certain room, we have time between now and then to do it. It's an ongoing process until we open the doors at 11 o'clock Thursday morning."


Game 1 #8 Alabama vs. #9 Georgia Noon CT SEC TV Two teams making a last ditch effort to make the NCAAs. Bama's strength is on the perimeter, Georgia's in the post. The stakes are high in this one! Who will step up to claim them?

Game 2 #7 Arkansas vs. #10 Ole Miss 2:15 CT SEC TV Arkansas has been coming on strong after a slow start, including an upset of Vanderbilt in Bud Walton Arena. Could the Razorbacks be this year's darkhorse to make a run deep into the tourney?

Game 3 #5 Mississippi State vs. #12 Kentucky 6 pm CT SEC TV The Lady Bulldogs lost 3 of their last 4 SEC games, but their senior leader Jennifer Fambrough has returned from back surgery. Will that be enough to put MSU back on the winning track?

Game 4 #6 Florida vs. #11 Auburn 8:15 pm SEC TV After a fast start, Auburn struggled after leading scorer and rebounder Tia Miller tore her ACL, and backup Brandi Hillman broke her foot. But Hillman's back now, and Auburn coach Joe Ciampi thinks she can make a difference. But can she neutralize Florida's Vanessa Hayden?

We'll know the answers Thursday night. Top Stories