On December 12, 2021, the 108th Grey Cup decided the Canadian Football League (CFL) season championship for the 2021 season at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, Ont., Canada. Surrounding and supporting the championship game were tented structures by Premier Event Tent Rentals Inc., Brampton, Ont., Canada. Premier’s tents supported the event planner’s vision for an in-person and televised event, provided all-important protection from the elements, and gave attendees spaces that invited them to fully enjoy the championship event.
“As with all large events…each of [the vendors] came to us with a specific location on the property to work within and then a vision for what they wanted to accomplish,” says Ben McCarty, director, sales and marketing for Premier Event Tent Rentals.
The Canadian Football League requested black tent fabric for tents within the stadium boundaries because they would be on camera throughout the game, which required Premier to provide custom fabric. “Our tents are typically white vinyl so substituting in black fabric for six tents (four in the south end zone on 14-foot-high scaffolding and two in the north end zone on staging) required a quick turnaround from our manufacturing division,” says Kris Boomhouwer, manager, special projects.
In addition to the black tenting, Premier provided white tents for the covered spaces outside the stadium grounds, including tents for the half-time show performers’ warming space; front and back of house; AV teams; 50/50 draw (raffle) to benefit community youth programs in the Hamilton area; staff warming areas; and all corporate activation spaces in the tailgate zone.
Host broadcasters TSN (and RDS in Quebec) requested glass wall structures, blacked out to match the tent fabric for broadcast purposes. And because the structures were elevated 14 feet in the south end zone, the client requested superior protection from the elements, so glass wall was the right answer. Additionally, TSN needed a basecamp compound separate from the broadcast booths that overlooked the field for production trailers and portable workspaces.
“The challenge [for the basecamp] was that the production trailers were 13 feet high and were parked against the side legs; therefore we needed to use custom 13-foot-high side legs versus the standard 10-feet-high side legs,” McCarty says. “The structure we erected was 50 feet wide by 135 feet long with a center ridge of 30 feet, which proved to be exactly what TSN envisioned—and they were thrilled with the outcome.”
“The venue is a great spot to host your typical CFL game but for the purposes of the Grey Cup with all the added festivities, some of the spaces we were required to work in were tight and often required some creative thinking—which we like!” Boomhouwer says. “The TSN compound ideally would have been 15 feet longer, but we could not block access into the stadium; therefore, we worked with TSN to reorganize the interior layout of the compound before arriving on-site to make it work for everyone.”
From an operational standpoint, working on a site such as the CFL stadium, with projects in process on all four sides at the same time, makes staffing for crew leaders, installers, tools and machinery a juggling act. “Our site supervisor was able to stay ahead of the crews, giving them the required resources to do their job each day, and we managed to hit every deadline before kickoff,” McCarty says.
On day two of the 50-by-135-foot TSN basecamp install structure, crew members had to stop the project due to high winds in the area and move onto other tasks to ensure they would still hit all their event deadlines. “On large projects like this, reworking a schedule is very common, but it’s the constant communication with those other affected stakeholders that makes everything come together in the end,” Boomhouwer says. “Sometimes weather plays a role in determining a schedule for us and even though this can really set you back, we were able to remain flexible and keep our eyes on the prize, so to speak, to get the job done.”
The day before the event, another collection of winds off Lake Ontario reached 100 kilometers per hour forcing the team to make further adjustments. With four 20-by-20-foot tents on scaffolding 14 feet in the air, in addition to 16 other tents at the venue—the crew was scrambling to tighten straps and ratchets, check sidewalls, and tie pass poles to ensure nothing was damaged or anyone was injured; even concrete blocks needed to be moved back into place. “Wind is not a favorable element in our industry, but we anchored all the structures to code and were confident everything would go just as planned—and it did,” McCarty says.
New normal—managing COVID
With all the variables of COVID-19, Premier did not get the first call about installing tents at the Grey Cup until October 2021. The team met on-site to confirm the sizing and locations of each tent in early November and on December 1, 2021, started with boots on the ground. “We had the entire scope completed one week later, on December 8,” Boomhouwer says. “Vendors and other suppliers could then move in and put on the final touches before the first fans arrived on game day: Sunday, Dec. 12, at noon.
“With COVID-19 and all the constant (but necessary!) changes to the policies and guidelines, we were always on our toes to meet the venue and league needs,” Boomhouwer continues. “All staff working on-site at Tim Hortons Field were required to complete a COVID rapid test on-site every morning at 8 a.m. and wait for their results before they were able to start their day. The rapid test was a very good practice, and nobody questioned why we would do it—but it threw a wrench in the morning plans for the crews and for drivers in the middle of that day who were just dropping materials to the crew, hoping to depart quickly.”
Seven weeks from beginning to end, the event was a successful full-team effort. “From our president to our account executive, warehousing and manufacturing teams, installation and removal crews, we are very proud of what we accomplished on a tight timeline for such a great event,” McCarty says.
Sigrid Tornquist is a Minneapolis, Minn.-based writer and editor, and a former InTents editor.
Premier Event Tent Rentals, Brampton, Ont., Canada
Canadian Football League, Toronto, Ont., Canada
Grey Cup, Hamilton, Ont., Canada
Tim Hortons Field/Tiger-Cats Football Club, Hamilton, Ont., Canada
Tower Scaffold Services Inc., Toronto, Ont., Canada
HVAC Rentals, Toronto, Ont., Canada