CLEVELAND — As the city puts on the finishing touches for the All-Star celebration, News 5 is introducing you to one man who you’ve surely seen, but you may not know.
From the runways at Burke Lakefront Airport to the sidelines at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, Al Arroyo lives for making things run smoothly.
“I've been in this aviation business for 35 years,” Arroyo said. “As a kid (with) my dad, we'd go to the airport from time to time and we watch airplanes.”
Arroyo spends his days at the airport, landing jets, welcoming guests, and refueling aircraft. He’s often the first face many travelers see when the step off the plane at Burke.
“I’ve always wanted to be in aviation somewhere,” he said. “It changes every day, and that's what I like about it.”
Al is also one of many who help get Cleveland’s official breaking news helicopter, AirTracker 5 in and out of the hangar on a daily basis.
“We know when you guys are going out in the middle of the day for breaking news, something's up,” Arroyo said.
If you’re coming into town for the All-Star festivities or watching the game on Sunday, you also might see his face on the game broadcasts, too.
As a second job, Al works security at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, ensuring that the referees and fans have a safe experience at events.
“My my sole purpose is to make sure that the referees—that they're okay,” Arroyo said. “What people forget is, they're human beings. They have families to go home to. And so, it's our job to make sure that they get back on course.”
For the last ten years, Al has had a courtside seat to every up and down moment in Cavalier history. From the 26-game losing streak in 2010-11 to drafting Kyrie Irving and the eventual return of LeBron James, Al has been right in the thick of it.
Occasionally, there is a dust-up with fans. But he understands their passion and never lets things go too far.
“There's a fine line between crossing it and not crossing it. I let the fans express themselves as long as it's not vulgar,” Arroyo said.” We represent the Cavs. We represent Cleveland. We want fans to come from all over the country, all over the world that when they come to Cleveland, they don't forget their experiences here.”
When it boils down, Al feels like an unofficial ambassador of Cleveland. Welcoming visitors to his city at the airport and ensuring their event goes off without a hitch at the FieldHouse.
“Sometimes people see me here (at Burke) and don’t realize that I work there (Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse),” Arroyo said. “And then they’ll say ‘Wait, didn’t you just park our airplane?’ And I’ll say, ‘yes, that was me.’”
Arroyo also remembers being at the All-Star game in 1997 and sitting next to Dikembe Mutombo’s family when the NBA honored the league’s 50-greatest players.
“It's their party, but it's also Cleveland’s party,” Arroyo said. “The biggest part of the showcase of it is showcasing Cleveland.”
Al helps showcase Cleveland by often sporting his 2016 Championship ring. A lifelong Cleveland sports fan, one of his favorite ways to connect with fellow sports fanatics is to hand them the bling and encourage them to take a picture with it or try it on.
“I didn't realize the magnitude of it, but when we won, it was grown men in the arena, crying,” Arroyo said.
That’s why he’s excited to watch Cleveland take center stage as the NBA celebrates its 75th anniversary at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse this weekend. Al knows he will be busy at both locations making sure everything is order for the big party.
“I think seeing the pride that comes out of Cleveland and seeing what how the city is going to represent, that's what I'm looking forward to,” Arroyo said.
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