NB native ‘makes sure the show will go on’

NBHS grad Corey Ploetz leads crews in portable stadium seating, temporary staging jobs from coast to coast including upcoming Hockey City Classic in Minneapolis—

One of the largest outdoor hockey events of its kind is coming to Minnesota, and a North Branch native is making sure audiences will enjoy the show.

Corey Ploetz, a 1990 graduate of North Branch Area High School, went from majoring in accounting in college to working for the leading provider of portable staging and temporary seating for events including corporate meetings, auto shows and high-profile sporting events. Twenty years in, he is now the southwest regional general manager for SGA Production Services.

The Post Review caught up with Ploetz last week, since he recently led a crew in setting up supplemental seating and the base for the 2014 Hockey City Classic Jan. 17 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. He was back home in Las Vegas, where he offices and lives with his wife, Michelle, and sons Garrett, 9, and Grant, 5.

“What we do is very tangible,” he explained of his work. “At the end of 10-12 hour day, it’s a job where you get to see that immediate reward. There are parts and pieces; it’s an erector set for big kids. It’s very fulfilling to see the reward of your efforts day to day.”

The Hockey City Classic, hosted by the University of Minnesota, will kick off with the Gopher women’s hockey program taking on Minnesota State at 4:30 p.m., followed by the Gopher men’s hockey program hosting Ohio State at 8 p.m.

The event is part of a Winter Festival, which will consist of youth, high school and adult hockey events, private ice rentals, a public skate and more. Last year, more than 52,000 fans filled Soldier Field in Chicago for the inaugural Hockey City Classic.

After the TCF Bank Stadium job, Ploetz will head to Ann Arbor, Mich., to take out the NHL Winter Classic that was held New Year’s Day, and then he’s off to lead similar set-ups at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Yankee Stadium in New York City and Toronto.

“We have found it quite interesting to follow all the jobs he has around the country … and the world,” said his mother, Joanne Ploetz.

From North Branch to college

Ploetz enjoyed an active lifestyle at North Branch High, playing football and basketball and joining various clubs.

Joanne Ploetz talked about the North Branch community that helped raise her son.

“We are very grateful to the community, schools and church for the support and guidance they gave our children as they grew up here,” Joanne Ploetz said. “I always joked that the boys spent a great deal of time playing with Legos, and now Corey works with big Legos as he puts together seating and staging for large events. All our children were active in sports and other groups such as music, 4-H and youth groups at church. Our daughter took care of everyone as an athletic trainer as the boys played football, basketball and participated in track and she did volleyball and basketball.”

Talent discovered

Following graduation, he attended Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., where he continued to play some football and studied accounting.

But after two and half years, his work as a conversion crew leader at the Fargo Dome caught the attention of another company that happened to be setting up a show there.

“Before they left, SGA offered me a job,” he recalled. “It’s been a real good fit for me.”

That was toward the end of October 1993, and he began working for SGA the day after Christmas. The bottom man on the totem pole, he described himself, Ploetz started in the warehouse and gradually worked his way up in the company.

As for his mother, Joanne Ploetz had her doubts at first but eventually came to the realization that he had found his way.

“My standard line in the beginning was that I felt my baby was running off with the circus when we sent him off to Las Vegas for his first job to put an ice skating rink on a pool at a casino for Barbara Streisand’s holiday show,” she said. “I had never heard of such an industry, but it turns out it has been a perfect fit for Corey. He has traveled the world for major events including the Olympics, Super Bowl, concerts, trade shows, corporate conventions, basketball games on ships for the troops, ice classics and on and on. He works hard and makes sure the ‘show will go on.’”

She added, “It has been an interesting and rewarding journey.”

A traveling career

Another rewarding part of the job is the traveling involved, yet he also finds it tough due to the time away from his family.

“It’s harder and harder to be away so much, especially with the boys getting older,” he said. “Traveling is a rewarding part of the job, but I’ll miss some of the boys’ events.”

In 2011, Ploetz traveled to San Diego to help set up the original Carrier Classic basketball game, which was staged atop the nuclear-powered USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier.

“We put 8,000 seats around the court on the flight deck,” he said.

A year later, he assisted with three more sporting events aboard the USS Yorktown in South Carolina, USS Midway in San Diego and USS Bataan in Jacksonville, Fla.

“Everything we do is temporary,” he said of his company’s work in setting up and tearing down features such as seating and stages. “We work in hotel ballrooms, convention centers and auto shows. The auto shows in Detroit, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York are the four big ones every year. We will create a venue within a convention hall. Our clientele is quite extensive, and we’re always busy.”

Job well done

It’s been quite a career for Ploetz, who is responsible for operations in Las Vegas and Dallas. He is well-known in venues across the country for his leadership and on-site presence, according to SGA.

David L. Reed, director of Lansing Operations, special projects/maintenance manager for SGA Production Services, shared the following in an email to Ploetz:

“Everyone that has or is dealing with you on job sites is amazed how you run crews and get the job done. I know you hear this from time to time, but you should be very proud. There are not very many people that can say the same, and few and far between when you get everyday people with these kinds of compliments. I know how you work and how you can get the best out of a crew, but to hear it from other people you deal with is pretty cool. Thanks for many years of hard work, Corey.”

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