By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
Working in the same building he helped build suits Tom Wasinger just fine, although he really hadn't planned it that way.
After graduating from Hays High School in 1971, Wasinger went to work for Pierce-Schippers Construction Co., which started building the Gross Memorial Coliseum/Cunningham Hall complex on the Fort Hays State University campus west of Big Creek in August of that year.
Now, Wasinger knows GMC like the back of his hand after working for its custodial staff for the past 29 years.
After the GMC complex opened in 1973, Wasinger working for Pierce-Schippers for another two years before going out on his own, doing commercial construction and remodeling.
Then, when the economy took a nosedive in the mid-1980s, he decided to apply for a state job and learned there was an opening in the physical plant department at FHSU.
Little did he know, his main office would be in GMC.
Now, he is looking forward to retirement when he turns 62 next year.
As he prepared for last weekend's Class 3-2-1A state wrestling tournament, Wasinger reminisced about all the different events that have taken place in the coliseum during his tenure that has spanned four decades.
"They used to have some good concerts here," he said. "But they cost too much, and (Fort Hays) was taking a loss on them. So they stopped having them.
"We didn't need backstage passes. We'd just talk to them while they were setting up."
One of his favorite events, he said, was the Farm and Home Show that used to be in GMC.
And he has good memories from watching all four of FHSU's national championship basketball teams play there -- three for the men and one for the women.
"And don't forget the baseball team in 2000," he said, looking up at the NCAA Division II national runner-up banner hanging from the coliseum rafters.
Wasinger, who now bears the title of physical plant supervisor I, and his staff also are in charge of the upkeep of Larks Park -- where the Tiger baseball team plays -- as well as Lewis Field Stadium (football and track) and the FHSU soccer field.
He has worked a variety of hours through the years, including some late night-early morning combinations.
"I have slept a few nights down there," he said of his office.
While he is looking forward to retirement, Wasinger admitted his preparation time is a lot like the athletic teams he has watched compete in GMC -- the very next (game or event) is the most important.
For Wasinger and his crew, that next event is the Western Kansas Youth Wrestling Classic that will bring hundreds of young wrestlers and their families to GMC.
"Then it will be state basketball that next weekend," he said, looking ahead to the Class 1A, Division II high school tournament set for March 12 to 15. "I really like watching those games."