In the role since its inception, facility manager Stephen “Gino” Giovanelli has worked in event operations at Daytona International Speedway for over a decade, and brings many years of industry expertise to the table as he oversees the tower, frontstretch seating and injectors of the “World Center of Racing.”
What does a facility manager do?
“Mechanical, electrical, and plumbing – all of the facets of the stadium. Air conditioning, suite rentals, cleaning, we take care of it all,” Giovanelli. “Everything that happens in this building, we have a hand in.”
The permanent seating and concourse areas now span 1.5 million square feet– and that only includes indoor areas, not to mention the acres of space along the frontstretch.
The day-to-day responsibilities of Giovanelli and his team include everything that the building requires to operate correctly. From the command center in his office, you will find a series of screens from which Giovanelli can monitor and control everything in the stadium, from suite lighting and temperature, elevators and escalators, and even every cooler and freezer in the entire building. The system is so advanced, Giovanelli can even monitor the temperature in different corners of the same room.
“Right now in this room, it’s 72 degrees in the front because the sun is coming through the windows,” he says. “In the back, we’re sitting at 69 degrees.”
On race days, Giovanelli and his team monitor the command center and dispatch workers as needed to different jobs throughout the facility.
During events, this “incident management system” allows the operations team to see in real-time what needs to be done, and mark the job opened and completed as new projects come in.
Over the course of Speedweeks and Bike Week, Giovanelli’s team may field over 1,000 requests while monitoring the stands, midway area, and accompanying ticket booths, and are well-equipped to complete every job quickly and efficiently.
Starting out at DIS
While Giovanelli brings years of event operations experience to his position, he also draws from a diverse background of knowledge both in and outside of the racing world.
“In 2007 I actually started (at DIS) as a temporary worker in the accounting department,” he says.
From there Giovanelli was hired full-time, helping everywhere from partner displays in them midway to the Pit Road Patio hospitality experience. He then worked in the event operations department for several years before taking over as Facility Manager in 2015.
“I saw an opportunity and I went with it,” Giovanelli says. “With event operations, you get to get out and see how this place manages and operates. You get to be a part of it.”
In college, Giovanelli walked on to play baseball at Marshall University before graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in business administration.
“At one time, I was pretty good,” Giovanelli says with a laugh of his playing career. “Now I’m just old and fat.”
After college, he tried out for several professional baseball organizations before deciding to take what may seem like an unconventional career path – going back to school for an associate of arts in culinary and hospitality management.
While he claims not to have a specialty dish, Giovanelli worked for years in the hospitality industry as a sous-chef in North Carolina and Jacksonville, Fla. before eventually making the move to Daytona Beach.
While in the hospitality industry, Giovanelli even got to work for a few high-profile guests.
“I didn’t get to meet him, but I did make the crab cakes that were sent to where Jon Bon Jovi was making a movie.”
Giovanelli now spends his time playing recreation league softball and flag football in the area, and has recently helped the DIS company softball team to a number of league championships. He and his wife, Jamie, have been together for seven years.
DAYTONA Rising Project
The biggest change in Giovanelli’s time at DAYTONA is undoubtedly the DAYTONA Rising Project, a $400M reimagining of the facility that he now oversees.
“The biggest change of course is this facility,” he says of his time at DIS. “How massive it is, and how many moving parts there are.”
The project, which broke ground in July 2013, saw Giovanelli shadow the project manager while working with over a dozen contractors to plan everything from the inner workings of the stadium to where chairs would be placed.
“The large stuff all the way down to the small stuff,” he says. “I shadowed them in building this place, getting it ready to go.”
Completed in time for the January 2016 Rolex 24 At Daytona, the DAYTONA Rising project transformed the grandstands along the frontstretch into a start-of-the-art sports venue, including 101,500 permanent seats as well as over 60 luxury suites with unparalleled sightlines for fans.
Tasked with oversight of the entire complex, Giovanelli still finds time to make sure visitors feel welcomed at DAYTONA. “On race day I’m in the command center, I’m ‘putting out fires,’ but I also walk through the stadium and stop to ask fans what they think of the place.”
“Beyond the facility, the biggest change in the industry is the ability to be able to do everything and see everything via technology. I can turn pretty much anything on and off from right here (in my office).”
“Before, everything was on paper. You would go check everything off on a piece of paper,” Giovanelli says. “Now, my guys have a phone, the automated system is right there in their hands.”
From his office or from any mobile device, Giovanelli is able to create and send work orders directly to the appropriate team member, as well as see their progress and completion instantaneously.
“In the past, it was mark it down on a piece of paper and come back and tell me what you did.”
With the many challenges that come with operating one of the most advanced sporting venues in the world, Giovanelli is confident that he and his team are prepared to handle any situation.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time now,” he says. “I feel like there’s nothing that could happen that we couldn’t take care of. I have a great group of guys on my stadium operations team, and there’s really no challenges that pop up that we couldn’t handle.”
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