Multilevel tents gain stature as an impressive, if expensive, way to grab attention, offer prime viewing and add space in a given footprint.
By Janice Kleinschmidt
When World Cup skiers schuss down the Colorado mountains in February, spectators will view their feats from a high and cozy vantage point. Yes, fans will be hunkered down in front of a fireplace with a widescreen television in a Vail resort lodge, but the truly privileged will be on the upper level of a double-decker HTS tent.
“Two-story tents were crucial at America’s Cup last year to offer hospitality and VIP viewing points,” says Jeff McInnes, general manager of HTS-USA in Delray Beach, Fla. Such structures are proving popular at high-profile sporting events such as auto races, golf competitions and at major trade shows “where you want your event structure to have a visual impact.”
“Everybody is looking to do something unique and grand. And budgets are definitely back,” says Dennis Birdsall, general manager of TentLogix. The Stuart, Fla.-based company added two-story tents to its rental offerings about five years ago after inquiries from clients.
“We wanted them to be able to pursue their biggest dreams,” Birdsall says. “We were able to work [two-story tents] into a couple of events, so we could justify the investment and felt it was a platform on which we could continue to grow our inventory.”
Hank Parker’s Party & Tent Rentals in Buffalo, N.Y., has installed double-decker tents in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean. One of its jobs was a 30-by-60-meter tent with two 5-meter balconies and a mezzanine overlooking a stage where Kid Rock performed for a private NBA All-Star party in Louisiana.
“We also do a lot of work for NFL sports teams and have used some of the biggest double-decker tents for their events,” says Jacob Berardi, president. The company has also set up two-story structures for Lexus and PGA golf tournaments and is working on a NASCAR event. “There has been an increase in demand for multilevel structures, but the costs are greater than many clients’ budgets.”
Regal Tent Productions Ltd., Stoney Creek, Ont., Canada, stocks multilevel structures, which it has used for a multiday country music festival north of Toronto; major sponsor L’OrÃ©al at the Toronto International Film Festival; the Republican Convention in Tampa, Fla.; and a Virgin Mobile-sponsored rock concert in Montreal.
“We have had multilevel tents since the Olympics in 2010,” says Gregg Chipman, Regal’s director of sales and marketing. “It’s not a cheap thing to do. Just by the names—L’OrÃ©al, Virgin Mobile—you can see these are big-name clients. Where it’s really useful is at racetracks and golf courses, because they’re trying to get spectators above the ground.”
“Over the last five years, people are buying tents again. Events are getting bigger again. As events get bigger, more space is required,” asserts Pat Moughan, general manager for Losberger US LLC, Frederick, Md., which offers five versions of two-story tents, each different from the eaves up.
“Within the last 10 years, the number of double-deckers in the United States has seen a steady increase,” says Mike Crews, clearspan and new business development for Anchor Industries Inc. of Evansville, Ind. Anchor sells complete two-story structures or just a 4-meter-high platform on which customers can, with a small retrofit for the base plates, erect their own tents.
HTS-USA makes a range of two- and three-story models and also offers a ground-level base to serve as the supporting structure on which customers can use their existing inventory.
“It’s a good starting point for entry into multilevel tents,” McInnes says.
With their modular designs, multilevel structures—available from 10 to 40 meters in width—offer a range of options. Either level can be fully enclosed, fully open or partially open. They can be set up with the two levels enclosing the same square footage or with a smaller enclosed structure and balcony on top. The upper level can have a full floor or create a mezzanine.
Perhaps one of the biggest benefits is the ability to increase occupancy and function (i.e., food service, viewing, display and operations) on the same ground space as a single-story tent.
“If you have a limited amount of footprint in an area but want to stand out in a crowd, a double-decker is the answer,” Chipman says.
“Not that many tent rental companies do two-story structures. If you can do it, I think that says a lot about who you are as a company having options for your customers,” Birdsall says.
There are good reasons why most tent renters haven’t made the leap to multilevel tents. Manufacturers and tent rental companies acknowledge that the investment cost is high.
“You have to be able to capitalize this building for an existing clientele,” Crews says, “and you have to make sure you’ve thought through the labor logistics. It will take an experienced crew and leadership because of the complexity, and it takes three to five times as long to install.”
Additionally, Berardi points out, “You’ve got to have the storage space and more trucks. There’s two times the truckload. And your insurance goes up considerably.”
“It’s a regular structure on steroids. Everything is bigger and heavier. A base plate weighs 150 pounds,” Birdsall says.
“There are more pieces—and pieces that can’t be found at the local Home Depot, so you have to be more organized with your load list,” Moughan adds. “You have to have access to the site for equipment. And since you’re going higher, overhead obstructions come into play more than with a single floor.”
The height also is a factor with forklifts unable to reach the tallest points. “We use a lot of 60- and 70-ton cranes, sometimes even 80-ton cranes to put these up,” Berardi says.
But, Chipman notes, “Before you even begin, if the ground is not level, you have to put in some kind of a floor to make sure the base is. We use a heavy-duty ballast floor.”
Ultimately, Crews says, “It’s a big investment, and you have got to have the right client. This isn’t the kind of thing you put on the shelf and hope somebody rents it.”
“It’s about maximizing profit by differentiating yourself,” McInnes
says. “You are offering a better product
instead of the lowest-per-square-
footage price.” Despite the challenges, there’s a benefit derived beyond monetary profit.
“When you are done building a project like that, you really feel good,” Berardi says. “The smiles on your customers’ faces and how many times they thank you—the ‘wows’ just go on and on.”
Janice Kleinschmidt is a freelance writer based in San Diego, Calif.