Challenging surfaces and demand for fresh aesthetics keep tent rental companies busy.
By Janice Kleinschmidt
When Sur-Loc Flooring Systems LLC of Kearneysville, W.V., installed flooring on a lawn in Washington, D.C., the crew had to hide from view each time the residents passed by.
“It took a long time because every time the president wanted to move, we had to hide,” says Sur-Loc’s President Mark Cerasi of the tent installation on the White House lawn for a 2009 state dinner. Security protocol required his team to duck behind or under scaffolding when members of the first family came or went. During teardown, they had to rush when a helicopter was going to land to pick up the president.
Another tricky installation involved a tent on the United Nations lawn for a 2008 benefit concert by Madonna. The project included building multiple risers for seating, as well as the stage.
“It was over a parking garage and couldn’t have more than 100 pounds per square foot,” Cerasi says. “We had to build pylons with crossbeams to support the weight.”
Skyline Tent Co., Charlottesville, Va., faced another kind of challenge when a client wanted to get married in the backyard of her family home. The setting—a sloped and terraced yard filled with trees and a garden of 100-year-old boxwoods—was picturesque but the grade and plants wouldn’t accommodate the wedding.
“To get the space she needed, we had to level a tent out over the gardens and into the trees,” says Miles Hingeley, lead installer at Skyline. “The [BilJax] flooring was 20 feet above ground at one end.”
On another occasion, Skyline had to build a deck on the edge of a pond, extending 10 feet over the water.
“The clients wanted it to look like it was floating over the lake,” Hingeley says. “We had to push big [concrete] blocks into the mud to support the BilJax legs.”
One of Skyline’s most difficult flooring installations, however, had nothing to do with what was under the deck, but just getting the deck to the site.
“We did a big wedding in New Buffalo, Mich., where the flooring was in the middle of a golf course a mile away from the nearest road and there were no pathways for golf carts,” Hingeley says. “We used DuraDeck™ [portable roadway] to get the flooring to the site. We built a road across sand traps and brought everything in on a forklift.”
Marquee Tents of Austin, Texas, had to install flooring over water for a wedding on an island in the middle of a flowing creek.
“They wanted a baby grand piano for the groom’s father to play,” says Juan Munoz, co-owner and general manager of the tent division. “Marquee built a 32-foot walkway to a 24-by-20-foot platform in the middle of the creek. We put on wet gear and weighted the platform with concrete blocks.”
Flooring over water more often means a pool, which Munoz says is not that difficult, but requires creative thinking, precise measurements and detailed preparation with a CAD program.
“Most pools require custom build-outs,” he says. “Also, here in Texas, we have a lot of hills. We have built around rocks and off cliffs. We did a project this spring on a granite rock 40 feet tall.” That project involved building a 20-by-20-foot viewing platform on a domed rock for an off-road Jeep® demonstration.
“We had to rent heavy equipment to get the flooring to the top of the rock, and we had to set anchors in the rock to keep the flooring from sliding off the side of the cliff,” Munoz recalls.
Always a challenge
Stephen Frost, president of Stamford Tent & Event Services Inc. in Stamford, Conn., says the most difficult flooring situations involve very steep grades or installations over gardens and pools where support is an issue.
“We had a grade a year or so ago for a wedding in Long Island, N.Y., that dropped from 0 to 28 feet over a 70-foot run. We braced the scaffolding and anchored it back into the hill,” he says.
Ed Knight, president of EventQuip in Lansdale, Pa., finds that “unstable, mushy” ground creates a difficult installation.
“We did a very large project with a raised floor over an area that had recently been regraded,” he says. “One of the challenges we often find with regrades is that some areas settle differently, and we were looking at a substantial amount of rain from the time of installation until the event. At every single contact point with the ground, we pretamped and then used mudsills of double-thick ¾-inch plywood.”
Kail Ghigo, sales director for InField Systems Inc. of Van Buren, Ark., recalls a complication with flooring for the Fox Upfront annual programming presentation on the Central Park ice rink in New York City, N.Y.
“When they hold the event in May, it rains 5 to 9 inches every year. It floods [the tent] every time,” Ghigo says. “We took our [polypropylene] Supa-Trac™ and put two layers in. We raised the floor 3Â½ inches. It’s only 30,000 square feet, but we used 60,000 square feet of flooring in a brick weave. Then we cut round edges to fit [the rink] perfectly.”
Looks like they made it
“One of the latest trends has been what we call ‘vintage flooring’—the Pergo® look,” Munoz says, noting that Marquee converted BilJax flooring to look like wood planking. “The first request was for 1,500 square feet. After we designed and built it, it just skyrocketed from there. It’s probably the hottest-selling flooring we have.”
EventQuip customers also are requesting hardwood plank floors, typically with a sailcloth tent.
“One of the other things we see is the use of interior-grade, cut-pile carpets—some in very saturated colors,” Knight says. Another trend he’s noticed is custom floor coverings with appliques such as logos and monograms. “We did one with the pattern from the wedding invitation on the dance floor.”
Hingeley says one trend at Skyline has been custom dance floors with peel-and-stick graphics or client-provided designs.
More trends, more options
“One of the things [tent rental] companies want is the ability to change colors,” says Sue DiGennaro, who co-owns California Portable Dance Floor Co. (CPDF), Camarillo, Calif., with her husband Ernie. They offer peel-and-stick vinyl coverings that can be applied on any smooth flooring vinyl, composite laminate floors in multiple colors and their own Versa Floor (screw-together sections with a removable, clear-acrylic top that allows the insertion of logos, graphics or photographs).
“It also comes with a holographic insert: rainbow sheen, silver lens or hyper plaid. When lights from above reflect off the hyper plaid insert, you get the look of a lit dance floor without the cost of an electric floor,” Sue DiGennaro says. “We also have had rental companies that want to make different shapes. We designed a conversion kit that lets you make a 24-foot round floor.”
“Colors and shapes are really changing here lately,” Ernie DiGennaro says. “A lot of rental companies are getting into this rustic look, so we are trying to accommodate those tastes.” The company added colors and rustic cedar options this year.
“In floor coverings, we are seeing a big push toward wide-plank floor options,” Frost says. “We offer it in dark-stain English chestnut and pickled birch.”
Frost sees a trend toward multilevel floors in a tent. For a 50th birthday party this summer, Stamford installed three levels—a “sunken” dance floor, surrounding banquettes and a level above that for lounge seating.
In subflooring, Cerasi says he’s noticed more companies moving from plywood to plastic. Sur-Loc’s heavy-duty Dura-Trac™ is made from HDPE. The company also uses polypropylene systems.
“[Plastic flooring] is up to four times faster [to install] and you don’t have screws popping up and wood curving up or delaminating,” Cerasi says. “As people see scaffolding at high-end profile events, such as PGA and racing events, you are starting to see backyard parties with better budgets going to engineered scaffolding; and the engineering on it is really good.”
According to Ghigo, one of the trends in subflooring is that many manufacturers have begun making polyethylene products in lieu of polypropylene.
“They figured out that it will work about the same, but it’s a lot cheaper,” he says. However, he notes that polypropylene, which InField Systems uses in its three grades of flooring, is less brittle and holds up better against deterioration from the sun.
“We haven’t followed the trend,” Ghigo says.