SBJ/July 15-21, 2013/Facilities

ATP events try modular stadiums

Have stadium, will travel.

That pitch won over two U.S. ATP tournaments, which starting next week will deploy a modular, made-to-order stadium, shipped in parts from Europe.

The first stop is the BB&T Open in Atlanta. When that event ends, the stadium will be taken down piece by piece, slid into specifically designed storage spaces on a flatbed truck, and driven to Winston-Salem, N.C., for that city’s late-August ATP tourney.

Nussli provided the stadium for Davis Cup matches in Gijon, Spain, in 2012.
Photo by: NUSSLI
The BB&T Open signed a five-year deal with the stadium’s owner, Nussli, for the setup. The Winston-Salem Open signed what it termed as a multiyear deal.

While temporary venues and temporary seating are not new — both events have used them in the past — they commonly entail mainly bleacher-style seats, folding chairs and few real-stadium amenities. What is different with Nussli’s offering is that its portable venue is akin to a real stadium, with plush-back seats and luxury front-row reclining chairs, all while being portable.

“It is like a big erector set,” said Chris Kersey, U.S. project manager for Nussli, a Swiss company that has leased similar stadiums overseas for events like the Davis Cup. “It is all pieces, and each one is put in a different transportation rack [on the truck for delivery].”

Nussli shipped over most of the stadium in 16 sea containers from Europe, though some parts came from the company’s seating used at last month’s Dew Tour stop in Maryland. At the completion of the Winston-Salem Open, the parts will remain in the United States as Nussli looks to further market its product.

Kersey approached the two ATP events last fall. In January, Bill Oakes, the director for the Winston-Salem tournament, flew to Nussli’s headquarters in Switzerland on behalf of both events, which know each other well through membership in the summer U.S. Open Series.

“I landed at 8 in the morning and spent 24 hours,” Oakes recalled. “They built a portion of the stands in one of their shops. I sat in the seats, did everything.”

The Winston-Salem event is looking to build a permanent tennis stadium but wanted to change things up from last year’s event presentation right away, Oakes said. The new stadium will offer fans more leg and shoulder room, he said.

Rob Bryant, the Atlanta director, said the difference in cost between the temporary stands that were used for that event last year and what Nussli is providing this year is minimal. In addition, the event tied in its new sponsorship with UPS, which handled the logistics of shipping the parts from Europe.

The setup and deconstruction is also quicker, Bryant said. Last year, the BB&T Open’s first at Atlantic Station in Atlanta, stadium installation consumed six weeks. This year, it will take three weeks.

Nussli is using the events as a platform to showcase its product. U.S. business represents about one-quarter of its global operations. Clients include the International Olympic Committee and A1 Beach Volleyball.

The stadium product can be configured to an event’s tastes, as well. The Atlanta tournament, for example, will have 400 premium seats courtside. Those seats recline, similar to ones in movie theaters. Winston-Salem has opted for 1,000 of these seats by contrast, and 500 more seats in total in its stadium. Overall, there will be seating for 3,900 in Atlanta versus 4,400 in Winston-Salem.

“The U.S. needs to upgrade its [temporary] seating,” Kersey said. “A lot of companies typically have bleachers, scaffolding. The reason we brought this into the market is, it is a gamble, but we think it is the right time.”

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