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Covering it all

Features | December 1, 2014 | By:

Two projects show the range of needs a tent company can cover.

The ability to handle jobs across the spectrum can help create more revenue stability and garner more referrals. Based in Plymouth, Minn., Ultimate Events installs tents for events ranging from large corporate gatherings to backyard parties. Having the capability to tackle diverse projects requires the inventory, staff expertise, marketing strategies and equipment.

Two case studies of installations from the past year show the range of solutions that tents—and one tent company—can provide. In the first case study, Ultimate Events installed a tent for more than 2,000 attendees at the upscale World Education Congress of Meeting Planners International (MPI) in Minneapolis, Minn., in August. In the second, the company installed, in sub-zero temperatures, equipment shelters for a construction job site at an environmentally protected location in northern Minnesota.

Two-tiered surface, busy street

The 2014 World Education Congress called for a 15-by-90-meter tent set on a two-tiered surface along the Mill City boardwalk in downtown Minneapolis. The city issued a variance permit for the installation, but did not allow closure of the high-traffic street, a busy bicycle path, or the sidewalk.

“[We] had to work around the general public during both installation and removal,” says Mike Whaley, sales manager for Ultimate Events. “Half of the tent was staked, while the other half needed to be weighted.” A tight timeline made things more challenging: the city allowed only eight days for installation and two for removal, which required bulking up the company’s labor force during one of the busiest times of the year.

Other challenges included having to periodically move installation vehicles and an unexpected day-long delay. The installation took place during the city’s annual Aquatennial celebration, which includes a large fireworks show in the same area. Because of this, the entire job was put on hold for a day, something Whaley and his crew hadn’t anticipated.

Ultimate Events used a 12-person crew working 10-hour days to complete the project. The tent was installed over a 52-by-308-foot leveled floor covered with artificial turf. The floor was two-tiered and installed so the upper tier was four feet high. A custom staircase, a 16-by-32-foot performance stage and a VIP platform were also included in the project.

“[One of the biggest challenges installing the tent in this area] was the uneven boardwalk and sidewalk,” Whaley says. “The temporary floor [we installed] had to be tiered at different levels to accommodate this.”

Sub-zero temperatures, limited access

“We search for solutions for any potential challenge we are faced with,” Whaley says. When a client needed two warehouses to keep heavy drilling equipment running in cold temperatures, Ultimate Events met the challenge of installing tents in the dead of winter at a site with limited access.

The drill site was situated on frozen swampland buried in snow in northern Minnesota. Installation of two warehouses would normally be a two-day job for Ultimate Events, but this installation required seven days due to weather conditions and access restrictions.

The average temperature at the site during installation was -18 degrees Fahrenheit. Because the job site was located on a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) protected wetland preserve, the installation team had to follow strict rules. The site, in an area accessible only in the winter when the marshy ground is frozen, was buried in 24 to 36 inches of snow.

“The DNR would not allow the removal of trees or disturbances to the area. If that took place, heavy fines followed,” Whaley says. “To get to the area, the construction company built a temporary 10-foot-wide road out of railroad ties, the only way in and the only way out. A few times we were stuck on the road—as long as 4 hours—because the construction company was working and could not move until they completed [their task].”

The 25-by-35-meter and 10-by-20-meter heated warehouses allowed the client to meet its deadline, and the warehouses and equipment were removed before the spring thaw. The larger warehouse covered and heated the heavy drilling equipment. “The temperature was so cold that the diesel fuel [needed to run the machinery] would gel and the equipment would not run,” Whaley explains. The smaller structure was needed to cover a soil cleaning machine that the DNR mandated for the site.

Installing the structures required teamwork and a lot of hot coffee, Whaley says. “Keeping warm was essential. The crew could only work in 1- to 2-hour blocks. The construction company had large backhoes and a pipe crane that they [used to assist] in clearing snow and raising the structure arches.” Ultimate Events employed a six-person crew for the project, which began just days after the initial meeting with the client. They worked seven 12-hour days during installation, and five for removal.

Specific needs

The variety of projects that Ultimate Events takes on doesn’t happen by chance. Through its website, social media, word of mouth and wedding shows, the company markets itself as one with a wide breadth of capabilities. Above all, Whaley credits the company’s experienced and professional staff. “[We consistently] complete installations while adhering to our clients’ specific timelines and special needs,” he says.

Jake Kulju is a freelance writer based in Minneapolis, Minn.

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