Tent and event rental people know—every event holds surprises. But for Party Reflections Inc. LLC, headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., a recent fundraiser proved to be more challenging than most. The company had handled the annual Charlotte fundraiser for nearly 10 years, so one might expect the event would be less than challenging. But as it turned out, the April 2022 event included two changes in venue. “Normally, we set up a large structure in a parking lot near the hospital for the event,” says Dan Hooks, president and CEO of Party Reflections. “This year, however, they wanted to use an indoor practice facility they sponsor for the Carolina Panthers, otherwise known locally as the Bubble.”
That first change in venue was planned and in fact involved less resources of time and equipment from Party Reflections, since it did not require erecting a shelter. The event was a catered dinner for 500 guests with live entertainment and an auction to raise money for the nonprofit. The Party Reflections team members were prepared to equip the facility with tables, chairs, staging and food service equipment for the event just as they would have had the event been handled outdoors in one of their tents.
Time to scramble
But two weeks before the event was to take place, a huge storm roared through town and damaged the Bubble beyond repair in time for the event. “The event planner immediately called us to change plans and scramble to find a suitable location for the event,” Hooks says. “The Carolina Panthers organization was fully behind the event and offered the field inside its [Carolina Panthers Bank of America] stadium for the event—if we could mobilize enough tenting on such short notice in our busiest season.”
After reviewing and rearranging the floorplan, the Party Reflections team calculated that the event needed almost 20,000 square feet of tenting to accommodate all aspects of the evening. “Luckily, the Panther organization had just purchased a temporary flooring system that could be installed before we needed to begin our setup,” Hooks says. “We were able to come up with a configuration of structures that would meet the demands of the event.”
That configuration consisted of two Losberger De Boer clearspan structures and two FutureLite frame tents. The stadium hosted the cocktail hour inside the bar and lounge area overlooking the field. The cocktail reception spilled over into a courtyard formed by the two structures on the field. From there, guests were led to their seats for the dinner presentation and auction under a 25-by-45-meter Losberger Structure. After dinner, guests moved from the dining tent into a 25-by-25-meter Losberger Structure with a clear top for the entertainment and dancing portion of the night. The crew installed a 30-by-50-foot FutureLite frame tent for the caterer and an additional 16-by-16-foot FutureLite for the event planner’s office.
Installation, ballasting —and time constraints
The stadium provided a 40,000-square-foot pad of flooring for the Party Reflections crew to operate on during the install, allowing workers to drive their trailers into the center of the stadium for easy access to the site and utilize the proper forklifts and machinery to erect the structures.
Understandably, staking was not an option on the field, so Party Reflections transported more than 200,000 pounds of concrete weights to use as ballasts. “The six trailers of concrete had to be coordinated between our project management team in the field and our logistics team at the office to make sure we had the proper weights when we needed them for install,” Hooks says. “We did not have enough room to install both structures at the same time and still allow for truck and forklift movement, so we had to work on one at a time to allow other vendors to begin their work.”
The crew utilized its 755i Tent OX™ and a 42-foot shooting boom forklift to unload and distribute the weights around the perimeter of the structures. “Since the stadium did not want the flooring covering the lawn for an extended period of time, we had to complete our installation in one day to allow for the carpet, tables and chairs, AV, decor and catering teams to completely set the room the following day,” Hooks says.
The challenges just kept on coming
To add to the challenges, the stadium informed Party Reflections that there could be no generators on the field because of the possibility of fuel leaks. “Given the amount of AC, AV and catering power needs, it would have been impossible to run power from the parking lot efficiently enough to run everything needed,” Hooks says.
Party Reflections worked together with Sunbelt Rentals Inc. to come up with the idea of using a fuel containment bladder under each unit that would catch any spills from the equipment. “This was satisfactory to the client, so we averted the problem,” Hooks says.
The crew also had to adhere to an extremely tight timeline—having to remove everything the day after the event so the stadium could prepare for another event. “The vendor teams did a great job of working together to remove the items from one structure so we could start our removal while they worked to finish the other structure and be completely out of our way,” Hooks says.
From start to finish, Party Reflections had 12 days to create a completely new site footprint, prepare the available inventory, and install and remove the project. The installation took roughly two days to complete and the crew had everything torn down in about eight hours.
“Pulling this off in the busiest part of our season with a shortage of labor already causing problems was truly a miracle, but we realized they had no other choice and we had to come through for them,” Hooks says. “And although it cost a good deal more than the original event was going to cost, the spectacle of the stadium and the clear structures made some guests and sponsors comment that it should be held there from now on.”
Sigrid Tornquist is a Minneapolis, Minn.-based writer and editor, and a former InTents editor.