Dennis Petrullo remembers how as a child, growing up in his native New York City, his dad sold hot dogs at the old Shea Stadium â€“ home of the New York Mets. He recalls the sights, sounds, smells and general excitement of game day. He parlayed that thrill into his teenage years by working at the iconic Madison Square Garden, where he would be in charge of food, particularly in the backstage area. The Rolling Stones, Frank Sinatra â€“ he saw them all backstage and then got the chance to see some of the greatest shows on earth.
â€œI did a Doors show on New Yearâ€™s Eve,â€ recalls Petrullo. â€œIt was a 7 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. show. Imagine, I am 16 years old and The Doors are playing, and I am backstage with credentials, watching it from the side of the stage.â€
Today, Petrullo is general manager of the KFC Yum! Center â€“ home of the University of Louisville basketball team and music venue for some of the biggest entertainers in the world. Because he’s a veteran of the industry, it would be easy to assume that the thrill of seeing the backstage activity of massive stars has become a bit monotonous for the New Yorker, but, in fact, every day is as exciting as the last.
â€œIâ€™ve always loved going to work,â€ explains Petrullo, who has been with the arena since 2009. â€œIâ€™ve always loved this job and the atmosphere because one night itâ€™s a basketball game, another night itâ€™s a concert, the next week itâ€™s ‘Disney on Ice.’ Weâ€™re in the entertainment business, and [the KFC Yum! Center] is the jewel of the state. So itâ€™s a privilege for me to be here, and I love it.â€
So what makes a good venue? In Petrulloâ€™s mind itâ€™s only one thing â€“ the acts that take to the stage.
â€œItâ€™s all about content,â€ he enthuses. â€œYou can make as many of these arenas as you want, but the one that is going to be successful is the one that has content. And to get content you have to be able to sell tickets. Fortunately, in Louisville, this market has responded really well to the type of content we have been putting out. We had a week a while back in which we brought â€“ in a single week â€“ Keith Urban, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Beyonce and Justin Timberlake and two basketball games.â€
He continues: â€œThis building is the heart of entertainment in the state, and people want to be here. They donâ€™t want to miss things because they donâ€™t want to go to the office tomorrow and someone is going to say â€˜Did you see Paul McCartney last night?’ ‘Did you see Taylor Swift?â€™ It becomes the highlight of everybodyâ€™s week.â€
But engaging the community has to go beyond the entertainment. For Petrullo and his team, one way in which the KFC Yum! Center is trying to engage in the community is by taking measures that minimize the environmental impact the arena is having on Louisville. For any visitor, the most obvious aspect of the center that stands out is what immaculate condition it is in. It looks as pristine as the day it was built. In the past, the arena used chemical cleaning agents to keep it sparkling. But today, itâ€™s nothing but water.
The PathoSans chemical system, uses an electrical current to convert regular tap water into two solutions: a disinfectant and a cleansing solution. Now, every single surface is cleaned using these safe and harmless yet effective products.
â€œYou could have a bath in it,â€ jokes Petrullo.
But the effort does not simply extend to cleaning. The issue of waste is one that looms large, hence the KFC Yum! Center installed Smart Valves on all menâ€™s urinals, drastically reducing the number of flushes and consequently wasting less water. Toilet paper at the venue is 40 percent post-consumer recycled, while the remainder is made from environmentally friendly materials. Elsewhere, the arena began replacing incandescent lamps with CFL or LED lamps wherever possible in 2012, and currently that number stands at 40 percent of all lighting in the arena.
As for all the concessions at the facility, 100 percent of all food waste gets composted, while the maintenance department has adopted a green policy in all aspects of their work. If an environmentally-friendly company or product can be found, they will always use it over a less friendly one.
â€œI love what I do,â€ affirms Petrullo. â€œSo if I am going to be part of a major thing in the Louisville community, I want to be engaged in the community. It all works hand in hand. If the city is doing well, weâ€™re doing well, and because of that, weâ€™re all doing all well.â€ VT