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Sporting opportunities

From the ice rink to the Super Bowl®, tent and event rental companies have become an integral part of sporting events

Markets | July 1, 2024 | By: Maura Keller

When working on golf events, Party Reflections focuses on creating impressive structures designed for spectators’ comfort and safety. Photo courtesy of Party Reflections.

Outfitting sporting events with tents, flooring, staging and other key elements is the quintessential project for which many companies within the event industry strive. Just ask Daniel Hooks, president and CEO of Party Reflections in Charlotte, N.C., who has outfitted a myriad of sporting events throughout the company’s history.

“Structures that can be adapted to fit the needs of the sporting event so that the same type of structure can be used for hospitality, information services, catering operations, viewing platforms or logistic needs of the event are growing in popularity,” Hooks says. These can be enclosed to provide for HVAC needs, strengthened to support lighting and AV rigging, and equipped with glass and door options to create a temporary venue that can be decorated to handle the unique needs of sporting events.

In Hooks’ experience, many of the same opportunities exist between sporting events and other gatherings, such as weddings, with many of the same products used. “Soft seating areas, graphics and interior decor are important for all events now,” he says. “Also, the space inside the tents and structures are dedicated to different functions at a sporting event.” While bars and food tables are present at both types of events, sporting events usually incorporate more branding and technological features such as video walls and other brand activations.

What’s underfoot

From ground contour flooring for high-traffic spots and hospitality areas that don’t need to be elevated, to high-profile skybox venues for NASCAR or PGA events—all of these types of areas are popular sporting event flooring applications. Most sporting events have hundreds or thousands of spectators walking through the various areas of the event, so flooring is paramount.

“Since sporting events are usually multiday installations and events, we usually use AstroTurf® carpets or floor coverings that stand up to heavy traffic and wet conditions,” Hooks says. “Our elevated platforms are built out of regular ring scaffolding with timbers and plywood, and we also have our newest purchase of Bil-Jax’s TF2100 flooring system that incorporates with our structure inventory.”

Cory Stoken, partner and chief operating officer at Mod-Fence Systems in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., has learned that the biggest consideration at a sporting event is durability. Quite simply, flooring needs to be rugged enough to withstand tens of thousands of people walking over it in a very short amount of time. In addition, the flooring often needs to match specific team or brand colors, which means a lot of custom-colored and custom-designed flooring may be required.

Working in confined spaces at sporting events can be challenging. Chattanooga Tent uses innovative placement of structures for ease and efficiency. Photos courtesy of Chattanooga Tent.

Recently, Mod-Fence Systems had the opportunity to design and install a variety of flooring elements for Super Bowl® LVII in Glendale, Ariz., including 40,000 square feet of Matrax® HD portable event flooring on the Great Lawn outside of State Farm Stadium, used to assist the load in of large tent structures. It also was used as a solid subfloor underneath food and beverage tents, along with 100,000 square feet of Choice Turf, an event-grade economy turf floor covering used over the asphalt parking lots, concrete and the Matrax HD subfloor the company installed.

When you think of sporting events with high visibility, such as the Super Bowl, the first thing that likely comes to mind is visual graphics. From branded corporate sponsorships on tents and structures to visually appealing graphic elements on flooring, more and more event companies are installing structures and flooring that teem with visual design elements.

“Sporting events always have sponsors, and sponsors love seeing their logo and branding in as many places as they can—even the floor,” Stoken says. “Custom and branded flooring typically costs more than stock flooring options. Brands and sponsors at sporting events usually have the budgets to justify the added expense, where smaller events and weddings do not.”

Tenting structures used for locker rooms can be designed to incorporate elements for athletes’ use that mimic those found within permanent structures.

Challenges and opportunities

From tenting and staging to seating and flooring, sporting events come with a unique set of challenges for fabricators and installers.

Mike Holland, president of Chattanooga Tent Company in Chattanooga, Tenn., and his team provide a wealth of different products for sporting events, including elevated flooring and multi-floored structures as well as glass and hard walls for structures. One of the challenges Holland says event companies face when working with sporting events is the length of time a company’s equipment is out of inventory—sometimes it may be months of inventory for a one-day event.

At a recent Formula 1 race in Las Vegas, Holland noted that there were several tent vendors that provided triple-decker tenting structures, including restrooms and elevators, all designed in a myriad of colors. “There were several thousand feet of this type of structure used for viewing the race as well as hospitality,” Holland says. “As the sporting hospitality industry grows, the need for space creates challenges on what and where you are installing, so price your inventory accordingly.”

Getting in and out of sporting events can be particularly challenging for tent and equipment rental companies. Because they are ticketed events with thousands of guests, the designs of the temporary facility structures may impede ease and accessibility for event companies.

Incorporating visual graphics into turf and other sports flooring systems is in high demand in today’s sporting industry as corporate sponsors take centerstage. Photo courtesy of Mod-Fence LLC.

“Permanent venues are better equipped for this,” Holland says. “An event like Formula 1 has to create plans from scratch.” Companies providing rental materials to large sporting events should be sure to clarify delivery, installation and teardown timelines, and build in flexibility to their schedules.

In reflecting on the overall state of the industry, Mark Cerasi, owner of Dura-Trac Flooring Ltd. in Kearneysville, W.Va., says he’s seen a noticeable recent uptick in demand for sport event flooring and risers. “Event organizers, both large and small, are increasingly recognizing the value and versatility that high-quality flooring and risers bring to their events,” Cerasi says.

By staying ahead of the curve with cutting-edge technologies and materials, Cerasi believes businesses in the sport event flooring, tenting and staging industry stand not only to meet but exceed the evolving needs of their clients. “This translates into increased revenue streams, expanded market reach and a reputation for delivering excellence, ultimately paving the way for sustained growth and profitability in the dynamic events landscape.” 

Maura Keller is a freelance writer based in Minneapolis, Minn.

SIDEBAR: Colder applications

Dura-Trac™ Flooring manufactures synthetic ice surfaces from HDPE, offering strength and resilience in all climates. Photo courtesy of Dura-Trac Flooring.

Even in colder regions such as the northern United States and Canada, the number of days suitable for maintaining quality natural ice has significantly decreased. As a result, Mark Cerasi, owner of Dura-Trac™ Flooring Ltd. in Kearneysville, W.Va., says, community and corporate partner rinks are increasingly opting for synthetic ice over natural ice.

The materials and manufacturing processes used to create skateable tiles have seen tremendous improvement in recent years. As Cerasi explains, many manufacturers employed a center press method, resulting in the gradual depletion of lubrication as skaters used the tiles, leading to a sticky and non-skateable surface over time.

For more than two decades, Dura-Trac has been crafting synthetic ice surfaces. Initially, the company introduced 4-by-8-foot tiles with a thickness of ½ inch, primarily utilized in training centers and community rinks and by professionals due to their durability. High-density polyethylene (HDPE), renowned for its strength and resilience, forms the foundation of the company’s synthetic ice, ensuring longevity and stability even under rigorous use. The company’s proprietary lubricant, infused into the HDPE base, enhances the glide and maneuverability of skaters, replicating the sensation of skating on real ice.

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