Company Watch: 4Topps Premium Seating
The days of just sitting in a standard seat and watching a game for three hours is so 20th century, and that’s just fine by Deron Nardo, principal and president of 4Topps Premium Seating.
■ Joe Bellissimo, founder and CEO
■ Deron Nardo, president
■ Maggie Marshall, national sales director
■ Meredith Lochrie, operations director
■ Launched: 2011
■ NO. OF EMPLOYEES: 9
■ HEADQUARTERS: Winston-Salem, N.C.
■ WHAT THEY DO: Manufacture, sell and lease mesh, breathable stadium seating, available as row seats, swivel seats, bar stools and folding chairs.
The Winston-Salem, N.C., company makes mesh seating for sports venues that it positions as a cooler, more comfortable and more flexible option for sports facilities. Since its founding in 2011, 4Topps has built out a client base that now stretches across Major League Baseball, minor league baseball, the NFL, PGA Tour, NASCAR and multiple international properties.
Founder and CEO Joe Bellissimo came up with the idea of mesh seating while working in real estate and the design and construction of BB&T Ballpark, home of the Class A Winston-Salem Dash.
Bellissimo was the owner representative for the Dash and really didn’t see anything in the marketplace that he liked for premium areas, Nardo said. “So he designed the product.”
Nardo joined Bellissimo at 4Topps in 2011 to lead the company’s sales and marketing efforts and he likes how the company largely still flies under the radar.
4Topps’ first product — which is still its hallmark in the industry — is its semi-circle table unit with four swivel chairs. Nardo said the mesh seating stays 50 to 70 degrees cooler than traditional vinyl-top seats.
The company used its minor league connections to install seats and table units for the likes of the Nashville Sounds, Albuquerque (N.M.) Isotopes and Sacramento River Cats. The company now counts more than 40 minor league teams and ballparks among its customers.
■ Major League Baseball: A’s, Astros, Braves, Cardinals, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Giants, Mets, Padres, Reds, Tigers, White Sox
■ NFL: Broncos, Buccaneers, Dolphins, Jaguars, Panthers, Steelers
■ NCAA: Colorado, Colorado State, Iowa State, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Texas Tech, UCLA, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
■ PGA Tour: 25-plus events, including the Tour Championship, Players Championship, Pebble Beach, Phoenix Open, Northern Trust, Presidents Cup, BMW Championship
■ Minor league baseball: 40-plus teams
■ NASCAR: Atlanta, Bristol, Las Vegas, Texas
■ International: Edmonton Eskimos, Saskatchewan Roughriders, Winnipeg Blue Bombers (CFL); Tokyo Rakuten Golden Eagles, Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, Tokyo Yakult Swallows (Japan baseball); Vissel Kobe (Japan soccer)
As it’s added customers, 4Topps also has expanded its offering to include row seating (fixed and swivel), bar stools, clip-on bleacher seats and drink railings for standing room and communal areas at stadiums and ballparks.
Just like minor league players, 4Topps eventually got its break in the majors and now counts 12 MLB stadiums as clients. The Atlanta Braves called on 4Topps when developing the $672 million SunTrust Park, which opened in 2017. The team purchased more than 2,500 mesh seats for premium areas.
“I’m very, very impressed with the product. The look of it, the feel of it,” said Braves President Mike Plant. “You can stick something through it and the whole thing doesn’t unwind.”
The company uses a tear-resistant, commercial-grade elastomeric mesh, similar to what’s found in office and ergonomic chairs. The fabric is stain, rain, fire and abrasion resistant. 4Topps manufactures the products in its home state of North Carolina.
The Braves deal gained 4Topps much attention, Nardo said, and launched its most recent growth spurt. Baseball now makes up about 40 percent of 4Topps’ business, which includes installations in Japan.
Golf makes up another 30 percent, with premium mesh seating and tables installed for more than 25 PGA Tour events.
As venue managers, stadium operators and team executives see 4Topps’ seating at other facilities, it gets them thinking about how they could create or enhance revenue streams in their own premium areas. That’s led to deals with six NFL stadiums.
“We view every installation we get as our very own showroom,” Nardo said.
Venue officials in warm weather and/or warm climates are especially intrigued by the way the mesh seating can mitigate heat. That’s why the United Soccer League’s Phoenix Rising FC is looking at mesh seating for parts of a new 21,000-seat stadium that it wants to build as part of a bid to earn a Major League Soccer expansion franchise.
If the Rising’s expansion dreams play out and the stadium gets built, the team could add to a 4Topps MLS roster that already includes the Chicago Fire and Philadelphia Union.