Q&A with Barry Geisler, General Manager, Patriot Center

Posted: May 20, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Editor’s note: This weekly question-and-answer column with George Mason administrators appears every Thursday in the Daily Gazette.

By Megan McDonnell

Barry Geisler
Barry Geisler
Photo by Evan Cantwell

What are the responsibilities of your office?

The primary responsibilities are overall management of the Patriot Center, specifically to generate a number of events for the building and to have those events be a diverse schedule of programming. Our mission is to provide a place for entertainment and gathering for the university community, the local community, and the Washington, D.C., area community and to ensure that the events that take place here do not intrude upon university operations. The university, first and foremost, is an educational institution. Given our geographic location right in the heart of campus, we are always mindful that whatever we do should minimally intrude on the campus.

How many events per year are held here?

We average around 125 events a year. That includes basketball games, university events, and outside events, including a significant number of high school graduations.

What are some of the key issues right now?

The first issue is planning a renovation for the building. We expect the actual construction will start in June 2005, and we are in the design phase right now. Traffic and parking are always issues we wrestle with, making sure that we don’t cause too many backups with our events. Finally, maximizing the revenue we generate out of the events we have at the arena is another issue.

What would you say is the biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge is to provide quality programming for the campus community and the Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., communities, while making sure that what we do here does not adversely affect the campus. We have been open since 1985, and the campus has changed quite a bit since then. It is much busier, and there are many more students living on campus. There has been an evolution of this campus in a really nice way. We think the Patriot Center has evolved with the campus, and we want to make sure we stay in sync with the university’s goals.

What are some of your goals?

Our goals are to get popular shows in here to make the Patriot Center an interesting, exciting venue. Going back to the renovation, there is a real shared goal with the building staff and the university administration to improve the experience for the people using the building and attending our events. We want to freshen it up and make it a venue that the university is proud of. The Patriot Center gets about 400,000 people coming through every year, and it is the most visited building on campus, especially by people not affiliated with the university in any way. We try to present the university in the best light possible, so I think the challenge is to take the limited amount of money that we have and do a nice renewal of the building. We are really looking forward to that.

When is the renovation scheduled to be completed?

Our most recent schedule is to have it completed by December 2006. We are looking at an 18-month construction period at this point, but there are still a lot of blanks to fill in.

What is your favorite part of the job?

That it is different every day, and that the events are different. I have always looked at this job as being different from your typical office job. I really like the fact that we are dealing with different challenges. In the course of a weekend we might have three or four kinds of events, and they are all different. The other thing I like is that there is a beginning and an end to a lot of the projects we do. An event is essentially a project. We can see the tangible results of our work, and I like that part of it.

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