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Massive tenting at the Ryder Cup

Event Production, Feature, Project Briefs | December 1, 2012 | By:

Classic Tents brings game to the Ryder Cup.

Long before the U.S. and European teams could begin their match play for the 2012 Ryder Cup, the course had to be prepared with temporary environments that could accommodate players and fans. The popular, biennial golf event—held in 2012 at Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill., in late September—would draw nearly a quarter million fans from the United States and across the globe.

Classic Tents, which has an ongoing contract with the PGA, handled the tent installation. More than 675,000 square feet of land had to be measured and prepped for tent construction—making this a project of unprecedented size and scope.

Jim Sala, vice president of national accounts for Classic Tents, has directed tent installations for other major golf events such as the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship, and says this is one of the largest projects Classic Tents has ever done.

By the start of the Ryder Cup, the country club had been outfitted with a remarkable 500 tents—more than double the number predicted in the planning phase a year out—and more than 750,000 square feet of carpeting had been laid.

Tee time

To get everything in place required a herculean, yearlong effort. The first six months were spent measuring the golf course and its surrounding area, planning for logistics, securing hotels for crew members, marking underground utilities and organizing the transportation of crew members and massive equipment from all parts of the country.

“We had 65 tractor trailers arrive in Medinah full of gear,” Sala says. “We also needed 20 golf carts just to transport the amount of crew we had around the golf course.”

Fifty crew members spent three months building the tents and one month removing them after the tournament. Classic’s crew worked on a precise timeline with weekly meetings—and as the competition date drew near, the weekly meetings turned into daily meetings.

“At the end of it all, we had put up 450,000 square feet of tenting,” Sala says.

That figure included a 24,000-square-foot media center, a 38,400-square-foot golf shop and a 40,000- square-foot international pavilion.

Classic built three Champion’s Club hospitality chalets, each of considerable size. One near the clubhouse was 11,300 square feet, another on the first fairway was 18,000 square feet, and the third, a double-decker club overlooking the ninth tee, was 17,000 square feet.

“The two-level club was packed all weekend with fans,” Sala says. “The elevation of the club along with its large outdoor patio gave fans unobstructed views of the
golfers.”

On the greens

Installing tents on a golf course posed certain challenges. The tents had to be constructed to handle the hills and curves that distinguish golf courses from other areas.

“The land we were working with was not flat, so the flooring and the tenting had to be engineered specifically to stand on uneven grounds,” Sala says. “They also had to be able to withstand high wind loads.”

Moreover, Medinah golfers naturally expected to be able to use their golf club during the three-month installation process.

“We were very lucky with the Ryder Cup installation because Medinah has three courses,” Sala says. “They shut down one course for us to use as a compound area to store our equipment, and the remaining two courses remained open for golfers.”

When the event was finished, golfers also expected to come back to perfect golfing grounds, so the crew had to treat the land delicately both during the installation and the takedown process.

The heat is on

One of the biggest challenges for the installation involved dealing with the sweltering weather. The crew spent the hot Illinois months of July and August working outdoors with heavy pieces of equipment.

“The heat reached 100°F some days. When you’ve got crews touching aluminum pipes that have been sitting in the sun, or lifting large beams, the weather can become a major obstacle,” Sala says. “We also had a couple of storms come through that we had to cope with.”

Weather-related events could have potentially delayed the strict installation timeline. Luckily, the crew worked together to safely set up all the tents completely by the target date. They were assisted by helpful PGA staff throughout the demanding process.

Once all tents were up, a branding company decked out the exteriors with PGA logos and corporate brand names.

Despite the technical demands of such a large installation, the process succeeded without any major challenges or last-minute emergencies.

“Things certainly ramped up and got hectic as the competition approached, there’s no doubt about that,” Sala says. “But thanks to the efforts of a truly great team, it all fit together like a puzzle.”

Amir Hussain is a freelance writer based in Minneapolis, Minn.

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