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Angie Wieck, Published March 10 2013

It's My Job: Fargodome event director first worked in parking lot

FARGO – It takes an army of employees to put on an event like Saturday’s Kid Rock and Bob Seger concert at the Fargodome. One of the generals overseeing that army is Bernie Larson, director of event services at the Dome.

Larson oversees three full-time employees as well as a troop of 175 to 200 part-timers who work in areas such as parking, event staff and security.

Q. How did you get into this line of work?

I started here 20 years ago as a parking lot attendant as a fun side job. With it being a new building, they didn’t have a lot of seasoned staff here. As more opportunities came about, I just continued to grow through the ranks and ended up in this position 11 or 12 years ago.

What do you like about your job?

I would say I enjoy almost all of it. I like it because it’s different. Every day brings different challenges and opportunities. Soon as you think you’ve seen it all, then along comes the next show.

I enjoy the people I work with. I have a great staff, both full time and part time, that I have a lot of confidence and comfort in. Our part time staff, it’s quite an anomaly in that we have a large group of people who have been with us for 10, 15, 20 years.

For us, a lot of the reason we have such a good history of great customer service and event experiences is because of the staff we have in place and how well they know the building and the people in Fargo and their expectations.

Is security a challenge at some events?

It can be. Thankfully we live in Fargo where we don’t have a lot of issues that other communities our size deal with. Obviously, we do sometimes have to deal with overconsumption or people who just don’t go along with the program, but our staff are usually able to make those interactions positive ones. We don’t have meatheads or thugs that work here. We’re not bouncers. We’d rather talk things through to the satisfaction of the guest so they don’t have to leave and to our satisfaction so we don’t have to make them leave.

You have to do your homework and you have to know what type of crowd you’re getting. Saturday is a good example. You have Bob Seger who has been touring forever and you’re going to have fans who want to sit down and enjoy their drink. Then there will be Kid Rock fans in front of them who want to stand up and hoot and holler and scream. We talk to the staff about how to deal with those things.

What do you tell them?

It’s similar to the transition we’ve seen with Bison season ticketholders. Years ago, a ticketholder was someone who had been a Bison fan for years who liked to sit down and watch the game. The “new age” Bison fans might want to stand the entire game. If it’s brought to our attention, our ushers or security will let them know a complaint has been made that they’re blocking the view. A lot of the time when it’s brought to their attention, they’ll make the right decision. Some don’t, and there isn’t anything we can do about it. We can’t make them sit down.

In a concert situation, a lot of people are standing up holding beers. It’s different if they’re spilling on people or using obscene language, but if they’re not causing a problem we can’t make them sit down. We typically just tell people that if everybody is sitting during an event, they should think about doing the same.

Do you ever get to enjoy events here?

No, and my wife would agree with that. My idea of fun and down time is being away from as many people as I possibly can.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Angie Wieck at (701) 241-5501