Even though she's the boss at Xcel Energy Center, Kelly McGrath didn't get to meet Madonna. The arena's general manager and executive director is too busy making sure that everything — from the stage crew to concessions — is running smoothly at concerts to hobnob with the stars.

The White Bear Lake native ascended to her current position in July after holding a variety of jobs at Xcel Energy Center since it opened in 2000. She's done everything from Minnesota Wild director of sales to marketing and communications director for all Minnesota Sports & Entertainment-managed facilities.

McGrath oversees Xcel Energy Center's 250 full-time employees and 1,500 part-timers between security, concessions and stage crew on concert and tournament days.

After a busy run of high school state tourneys, Wild games and concerts at the X, McGrath talked mostly about music. Here are excerpts.

Q: What's your schedule like on a concert day?

A: The [crew] pull up either the day before or in the middle of the night and the whole production happens through the day. I'm an early riser so I like to check in with our production team. I like to be on site first thing in the morning — usually about 9 — and through the end of the show, until the fans have left the building and then I check in with production to make sure they're on track [with load-out].

Q: How much of the concert do you get to see?

A: It depends on the night. My favorite part is when the lights go down and the headliner comes on and the crowd starts to scream and clap. I try to be at the back of the floor by the mix [board] to see the whole stage. I walk the floor and concourses to check in with our staff that are on site. If I have a more personal interest in the artist, I'll see more of the show. I like to say, "I've seen everybody."

Q: How much interaction to you have with the music stars?

A: Very little. Pre-pandemic, there would be more opportunity to welcome an artist, present a gift or if we had a custom poster made. Or just say hello. Since then, that is not as typical.

Q: Before COVID-19, what percentage of the artists did you meet?

A: Sixty percent, maybe. It was more part of the backstage experience. It isn't anymore. Country music is still willing to do meet-and-greets with their fans and with the people from the building.

Q: Do you always give the music stars a Wild jersey the first time they play at the X?

A: We try to. That's our tradition. We always try to be creative in our gift giving and tie it to Minnesota-made products. We work a lot with Duluth Pack; we just gifted a lovely backpack to Olivia Rodrigo. We've worked with Legacy Chocolates, a local chocolatier. There's Happy Little Gifts where a woman can take images and fold it into a book. When Machine Gun Kelly came through, he had [his own] comic book and that woman took pages of his comic book and folded it into a rose because he has rose tattoos all over his body. My goal is to have a thoughtful gift.

Q: What was more challenging for you and why — the boys' hockey tournament or the instantly sold-out Olivia Rodrigo?

A: We've done the hockey tournament for so many years that we've got a rhythm. The challenge is how long a day it is — from 10 a.m. when the doors open and four games of hockey before we conclude, which can be at 11 at night and that's on the heels of the girls' hockey tournament, the wrestling tournament, with some Wild games as well. It's the grind and length of the day. Olivia Rodrigo has a lot of top people in the industry touring with her. It was a sold-out, packed house and it was very uneventful. Once she came onstage, our concourses were pretty bare.

Q: Which sells more beer — a Wild game or a country concert?

A: Oooh. Country does pretty well. A Wild game might be on a Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday. So fans are coming frequently. A country concert like Tim McGraw on the 20th [of April] might be a person's only night out. We love a Saturday country concert. A lot of Mich Golden Light goes down at a country concert. It's such a Minnesota thing.

Q: Which music genre sells the most merch?

A: Pop does well. Olivia Rodrigo was heavy merch. A lot of that is the demographic of the fan. Maybe they're not old enough to buy alcohol so more of their money will go into merch. Pearl Jam sold a lot of merchandise. They do more dated items specific to that show that become a collector piece. Such a passionate fan base.

Q: How much contact do you have with other arenas regarding things like Madonna starting late or security for Travis Scott after the tragedy at his Astroworld Festival?

A: At the GM level and our security team, we do some best practice research for anything that might be helpful to know. Buildings, as a rule, are helpful with each other.

Q: How much contact do you have with your counterparts at Target Center?

A: Ironically, I tend to see them more at an industry conference. We're all civil and nice. Not many markets have two buildings of similar size so close together.

Q: Do you view them as rivals or competition?

A: Oh, sure. Definitely competition. We're 10 miles door to door. I'm tasked with filling the building as much as we can.

Q: There has been talk about Xcel Energy Center requesting funding from the Legislature to do a study regarding improvements to the arena. What kind of improvements would you like to see regarding concerts?

A: The building was built in 2000 and the expectation of the artist was very different than it is now. We could look into artist dressing rooms or artist compounds. That is the trend in buildings now. We're a hockey building. We have five great locker rooms, and we work well for tournaments and we work well for concerts. We need to look at how can we have some multi-use spaces that don't seem like you're in a locker room. It would be cool to have a gym setup. We don't use the Wild weight room outside of the team.

Q: What's the most challenging part of your job?

A: Learning what I don't know. Coming out of a marketing and communications background, I wasn't involved with just the basic building itself. Making sure everything is functioning and everything is clean and I know things about our HVAC system and our roof, ice plan and things I never had to know. I have a great team to make sure everything is hitting on all cylinders. I'm just managing more people. I've always loved managing people.

Q: I thought you'd say handling all the ticket requests from people you know.

A: I've been doing it for so long, I can say "No" pretty easily.