By Jonathon Braden, BB&T Atlanta Open
Mary Alex Romero waits. Her four-wheeler “OPS 4” sits in front of the Twelve Hotel in Atlantic Station, soon to be en route to another errand on Tuesday, the busiest day of the BB&T Atlanta Open so far.
Romero rarely has had a quiet moment this week. She is a part of the tournament operations team, the men and women who make this tournament happen and do it all without you knowing it. Hanging welcome signs? That’s them. Escorting fire inspectors? The operations team.
Whenever anyone needs something done at the BB&T Atlanta Open – from tossing overripe bananas to checking courts – the operations team makes it happen. Someone radios someone, who probably radios the “OPS” team, and the task gets added to a list, and the task gets done.
“We pretty much just run around and do whatever anyone asks us,” Romero says.
She’s now driving her four-wheeler again, headed to help hang signs in the VIP Courtside Club, on the corner of Tower and Market Streets.
She can’t do that just yet, though. She has to give another tournament worker a ride and deliver some programs. Then she and Christy Andacht, assistant operations director, grab two window signs – ATP rankings lists – and hang them in the VIP lounge.
It’s now after 1 p.m., time for the monitor of the AJC Grandstand and Stadium Court to grab something to eat. Romero is sent to replace her.
But first, a woman sticking her head out of her stopped white SUV has a question, and because Romero is driving a four wheeler and wearing a BB&T Atlanta Open white polo, the woman assumes Romero can help.
“Are y’all working with what’s going on here?” says the woman, who’s looking for parking. Romero tells the woman to follow her for the best parking spot, near Stadium Court.
Turns out, the woman isn’t interested in tennis after all. “I’m not going to the court,” she says. “I’m going to the store.”
This happens frequently. People expect Romero and other operations team members to know everything about everything. Most of the time, they do, but other times, the questions stump them.
Romero, 18, likes it all the same. She recently graduated from Woodward Academy in College Park and heard about this temporary gig through a friend. She likes chaos, so she loves working here.
|Photo by Jonathon Braden/ BB&T Atlanta Open
She is now on Stadium Court, where a shirtless John Isner is practicing. There she inspects the cooler for ice towels and the Coca-Cola refrigerator for Powerade and Dasani water.
She’s about to finish this job before she’s interrupted again. Austin Foxworth, a fire marshal with the City of Atlanta Fire Department, needs to make sure everything is copasetic. Romero agrees to show him around.
They briefly stand on court, then head to check out the AJC Grandstand and Court 3.
As they walk out Stadium Court, another person has a question for Romero, this time the police officer standing outside. He asks her what time the afternoon matches start. She is stumped; she says she doesn’t know.
Finally, Romero can resume the job she started about a half hour ago, taking care of the two main courts. On Stadium Court, she throws away water bottles and racquet grips and straightens a Kleenex box.
On the same courtside table, the bananas have turned brown and spotty, so Romero throws them away, too, and radios for fresher bananas. She walks over to the AJC Grandstand court, checks the fridge and the bananas, and starts walking back to the four wheeler.
It is now almost 2 p.m., and Romero thinks about getting some lunch. Outside Stadium Court, near a police officer, she talks into the radio hanging on her shirt.
“I’m at Stadium Court,” she says to her boss. “Is there anything you want me to do?”
The police officer, standing feet away, answers her question by summarizing her day.
“They want you to do everything.”