Venue industry mourns the death of Dave Olsen

Dave Olsen ran PNC Arena, home of the Carolina Hurricanes, for 23 years and helped develop NHL facilities. Olsen died on Monday. (courtesy place)

‘The guy in the corners’ is still part of conversion teams

The day before he died, Davin “Dave” Olsen was on the hunt for a Zamboni. Olsen had just begun a six-week tenure as interim manager of the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas, home of the minor league hockey Ice Rays.

“They had one dead Zamboni and the other Zamboni was leaking hydraulic fluid, so he had some friends in Texas and he called them and said he needed them for Saturday night (January 29),” Frank said. Lapsley, general manager of North Charleston. Coliseum in South Carolina and among Olsen’s closest friends. “Within an hour there was a Zamboni on a set heading to Corpus Christi to make sure they had one for the game that night.”

Olsen died of a heart attack on Sunday during his temporary stay in Texas. He was 62 years old.

“We texted 25 times on Saturday before he passed,” Lapsley said. “He did exactly what he was supposed to do. He was happy to work. He loved it.”

Davin ‘Dave’ Olsen

Olsen spent 30 years as an arena manager, most of which was spent managing PNC Arena, home of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes. The Canes won the 2006 Stanley Cup during his tenure. Olsen parted ways with the team in September and was looking for a new job when he accepted ASM Global’s offer to fill the gap between full-time managing directors at Corpus Christi.

Olsen was at the forefront of the development of PNC Arena, which opened in 1999 as Raleigh Entertainment and Sports Arena. It came three years after Olsen helped open Halton Arena as director of recreation facilities at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.

Lapsley’s career crossed paths with Olsen’s many times and that’s how they became best friends.

In the early 1990s, they both ran arenas in Connecticut. Lapsley took over Olsen’s position at the New Haven Coliseum after Olsen left to join the Hartford Civic Center, home of the former Hartford Whalers, an NHL team.

On Friday evening, they drank a few beers and inquired on the phone about the two installations.

About five years later, the Whalers played preseason games in New Haven. Olsen worked closely with Jim Rutherford, president, general manager and co-owner of the Whalers. Olsen told Rutherford that he should hire Lapsley to help develop a new venue (now Hertz Arena) in Estero, Florida. It would become the home of a minor league hockey team owned by Whalers majority owner Peter Karmanos.

The Whalers hired Lapsley. Olsen soon moved to Charlotte, and soon after the Whalers moved to Raleigh in 1997. Olsen, through his relationship with Rutherford, and Lapsley were eventually joined at the hip by the Hurricanes. Together they worked on the Florida and Raleigh arena projects.

“We worked and played together for 28 years,” Lapsley said. “We have never missed a conference together. We always had to work out our travel schedule and if we weren’t on the same plane we would land within an hour of each other whether it was IEBA or Pollstar.

Larry Perkins, vice president of guest relations and assistant general manager of PNC Arena, also had a strong relationship with Olsen. Perkins, a North Carolina native, worked at the New Jersey Meadowlands and got to know Olsen after hiring him to bring part-time New Haven employees to work events at the old Giants Stadium.

Dave Olsen, left to right, Larry Perkins and Michael Bekolay in 2001. At the time, Bekolay ran food service at PNC Arena. (courtesy place)

Additionally, Perkins was among Olsen’s instructors at the IAVM Venue Management School at Oglebay Resort in West Virginia.

Shortly after the PNC Arena opened, Olsen called Perkins, asking him to be his assistant general manager. Perkins accepted the offer. He has been there since January 2000 and has worked alongside Olsen for over 20 years.

“I had spent 24 years at the Meadowlands,” Perkins said. “It was thriving but I couldn’t be president because of the political structure and everything. My father had just had a stroke. I’m from North Carolina and I thought, ‘let me go over there.’ Came here because of Dave.

Olsen was a workaholic, according to his colleagues. He was a real operator. On event days, he would roll up his sleeves and throw on a pair of jeans, ready to do anything to help arenas get ready for sports, concerts and family shows.

PNC Arena would sometimes schedule double days in which North Carolina State Men’s Basketball, another tenant, played an early afternoon game followed by a Hurricanes game that evening.

Olsen was usually part of the conversion team to make the quick switch from hoops to hockey.

“Dave liked to call me on a Saturday night when they were doing a ‘double day’ and remind me, ‘I’m the corner guy,'” Lapsley said. “He let me know he put the floor down and picked it up. He did not retire to his office. He was the general manager because he worked in all positions.

Scott Johnson, assistant manager of Greensboro Coliseum in North Carolina, got to know Olsen when the Hurricanes played two seasons at his arena in the late 1990s while the Raleigh facility was under construction.

Olsen played a construction role for the Hurricanes before becoming operations manager in Raleigh when Sims Hinds, who now works in business development for Oak View Group, was the team’s vice president of arena management. Hinds left the Canes in 2000 and Olsen took over as director of arena operations.

“Dave was as tough a guy as they come,” Johnson said. “He had the team’s best intentions at heart and he loved hockey as much as he enjoyed the camaraderie of the team and his friends and colleagues in the industry. We were regular cohorts at booking meetings.

“I will miss Dave immensely,” he said. “He planned to work for another eight years. I will always respect his professionalism, his defense of what was right and his strong friendship. You could always count on Dave.

Rich Krezwick and Ed Rubinstein, former big league arena managers and now retired, echoed those thoughts.

Olsen was always a gracious host when Krezwick traveled with the Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils, the two teams he worked for when he ran the TD Garden and the Prudential Center.

Later in his career, Rubinstein ran the Bi-Lo Center in Greenville, South Carolina, now Bon Secours Wellness Arena. Rubinstein and Olsen talked a lot about what concert tours were going through the Carolinas.

“We both knew a band was probably not going to play more than two dates in the Carolinas,” Rubinstein said. “We shared information all the time.”

All week, Perkins received calls from all over the world from Olsen’s friends in the industry.

“Dave practiced every day and that’s why people are shocked,” Perkins said. “Dave met everyone’s needs and people looked up to him. He was much loved. It will leave a void. »

Olsen’s stubborn attitude extended to helping many others part ways with his arena management duties.

In 2017, Olsen helped organize a relief effort for Hurricane Harvey victims along the Gulf Coast. PNC Arena officials packed two tractor-trailers containing clothing, food and other goods which were shipped to Beaumont, Texas.

“Dave wanted to make sure they knew North Carolina was thinking of them,” Perkins said.

Additionally, Olsen led other relief efforts to aid victims of major storms and emergency situations.

In 2005, Olsen took staff, food, chefs, and supplies to a local shelter to feed Hurricane Katrina evacuees and provided them with showers at the PNC Arena.

Five years ago, during a five-alarm fire in downtown Raleigh, Olsen drove to the arena at 4 a.m. with his executive chef to prepare meals and deliver them to first responders.

Separately, Olson’s family once took in an arena worker who had no place to live after falling out with her boyfriend, Perkins said.

“Dave has always been willing to help; that’s the kind of person he was,” he said.

Lapsley planned to go down to Texas and return with Olsen’s body to North Carolina. Details of a public celebration of Olsen’s life were being finalized to take place in Raleigh, he said.

“We always understood how we could fly together, so I have no problem going there if I can swing it,” Lapsley said. “You were lucky if you were Dave’s friend; you were blessed if you were his best friend. I was rather blessed.

Editor’s note: This story has been revised since it was first published.

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