GREAT BIG EVENTS CAN BRING great big headaches, often because the only spaces large enough to hold the attendees hold little else in terms of equipment. Here, we look at how three teams staged events using a combination of portable equipment and precise planning.
Only the Los Angeles Convention Center was large enough to stage a series of ten corporate meetings over the course of three days for 10,000 attendees at a cosmetics company event. Timing on the 2001 event was “tight,” Charles C. (Chet) Towle says dryly. But Newport Beach, Calif.-based Charles C. Technical Productions and Van Nuys, Calif.-based Creative Technology pulled it off, maneuvering “40 semi trucks with more than 100,000 pounds of equipment, 150 rig points, 400 moving lights, 52 miles of cable, 15,000 amps of power, 2,000 feet of truss, a stage larger than the Academy Awards' and 8,400 square feet of projection surface to be loaded in, aligned and ready for rehearsals in one eight-hour period,” Towle says. The event won a Gala Award from Special Events Magazine in January.
CAD (computer-aided design) was vital to meeting deadlines and saving money, Towle says. “The plans show everyone what they need to bring, where to put it, and who or what else is next to them. We make floor plans and 3-D computer modeling renderings so that we can stand in the virtual world and see what it looks like and fix problems and anticipate issues long before we arrive.”
Also essential: “Timelines followed by action lists,” he adds. “All your work is done here. Organization is key. Once you show up, everything will materialize before your very eyes with no Excedrin if you plan properly.”
FROM TURF TO BLACK-TIE
Thanks to plenty of planning, Professional Event Solutions of San Diego helped turn a dirt arena at nearby Del Mar Racetrack into the site for a high-style fund-raiser last year for 1,500 guests. The event was nominated for a 2001 Gala Award.
“Nine months of preparation, constant contact with the planning committee and several examinations of the show site eventually brought a crew of more than 40 to this 47,000-square-foot rodeo arena full of dirt to create an ethereal scene for a fund-raising gala and performance by Cirque du Soleil,” explains Todd Lass, production manager with Professional Event Solutions. “After five days and 1,800 man-hours of stage building, multi-level seating creations, and installation of 54,000 square feet of carpet, more than 250 lights and a custom sound system, the foundation was ready.”
The video presentation brought plenty of challenges. “Natural light and darkness, wind and atmosphere became an issue,” Lass says. “Great care had to be used in creating the truss structures used to hold the two 10 1/2-by-14-foot rear projection video screens. The structures had to be load-bearing and handle the impact of the wind on the 147 square feet of screen.
“The other obstacle was the heavy moisture in the air, particularly in our location less than a mile from the Pacific Ocean — everything gets wet,” he adds. “The biggest worry here was with the switching equipment's electronic components. Our solution was to build the switching area inside the delivery truck so that the equipment was protected when the air got heavy. At the end of the night, we just closed and locked the truck doors.”
WRONG AS RAIN
Even with the most careful planning, fate can cook up a catastrophe.
A resort at the foot of the Colorado Rockies offered the perfect site for a prominent insurance company to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 1997 with a four-day event for nearly 900 attendees. Event producer Patti Coons & Associates, based in Orlando, Fla., was eager to capitalize on the superb scenery, slating a series of outdoor events culminating in a custom rodeo-plus-fireworks-plus-dance “extravaganza,” reports vice president Shari Hirsch, CSEP.
That was before mighty Mother Nature weighed in with four days of rain, which created a 6-foot trench in the planned tent area for the rodeo.
After pulling new permits, the event team used a CAD program on laptop computers to re-plot the tents on higher ground. “Two tools were required to make this new plan happen — level heads and a Bobcat bulldozer,” Hirsch says. “The tent was moved in no time. Then we put our tech director inside the Bobcat and told him to carve us some dry land. And he did, inside and outside the tents. We built dirt walls and sandbagged them to keep the rainwater running along the outside of the tent. We put down more and more straw and plastic tent flooring that kept us from slipping.”
Mother Nature left a parting gift, however: “a magnificent double rainbow meant just for us,” Hirsch says.
Watch for Part II, appearing next month, offering a checklist for staging events using temporary equipment.
RESOURCES: Charles C. Technical Productions, 949/515-8998; Patti Coons & Associates, 407/290-9499; Professional Event Solutions, 619/881-0209