World Tennis Day is a phenomenon. On 3 March the International Tennis Federation works with 75 national associations to host events to promote participation in the sport. On the same day, Showdown events (promoted by StarGames) bring together past and present stars of tennis for unique one-night events. In the Asia-World Arena in Hong Kong it was Li Na v Stosur and Berdych v Hewitt. In Earl’s Court, London, it was Lendl v Cash and Sampras v Agassi. In Madison Square Garden, it was the McEnroes versus the Bryans and Murray v Djokovic.
Earl’s Court was the odd one out in not being an arena with permanent facilities. In an “unprecedented” three days, a 50-man crew from Arena Seating installed a 6,000 capacity temporary arena in Earl’s Court 2. As well as the spectator seating, the crew installed VIP and player accommodation, the hard court supplied by the promoter, sports lighting, video and sound production equipment and all furniture, including a hydraulic umpire’s chair.
Martin Clark, Project Manager at Arena Seating, said:
We’d normally need at least five days for a build like this. The main challenge has been tieing down production requirements and timescale.
Planning began in the autumn and was based around four days but the promoter had to cut this to three at short notice to give more court time for sponsors, who attend clinics with the tennis ‘greats’ as part of their VIP packages. Clark devised a plan to measure and mark out the hall beforehand and to bring trucks with equipment into Earls Court 1, an adjacent hall, so that the crew, under four site managers, could start work immediately the prior event moved out of Earls Court 2. Three 12-hour shifts completed the job in time.
Arena Seating used their standard seating tiers for the four sides of the arena and built bespoke VIP boxes at the front, with a layer of padded ‘club seats’ between VIP and public seating behind. Clark added:
The seats are closer to the court than at other events I’ve worked on. It creates a gladiatorial feel.
For the first time, the company completed the package by providing lighting, sound and screens, hiring experienced production manager Chuck Crampton, who explained:
I started out in November to put together a package of screens, sound, sports lighting and show effects.
Crampton, who worked with Arena Seating at the beach volleyball arena for the London Olympics and who has worked with Earl’s Court for many years, added:
It was important to schedule our bringing in equipment to work in parallel with Arena Seating so that its crew wasn’t impeded. Earl’s Court is great to work with and in the end the build was pretty painless.
Crampton brought together the sports lighting rig (from PRG) that is used at the O2 Arena for the ATP Finals, screens from Creative Technology (who also work at the ATP Finals), a PA from Encore and scoring systems. Blackout supplied the drapes to ‘solidify’ the temporary components.
Behind the court, Earls Court opened some of their permanent concessions as a mini concourse and temporary stands were set up by merchandise sellers and tennis organisations, plus StubHub who handled ticketing, including a seat upgrade competition.
The VIP area was decked out with high-class furniture (Spaceworks) and drapes and Levy Restaurants turned on the style with food carts festooned with fruit and veg and six-foot high champagne bottle displays. They also brought in celebrity chefs. A shiny Masarati filled one corner, a low stage and speaker cluster another.
Arena Seating writes method statements for every build and the work was signed off by independent engineers and checked by the local authority as for any public event. Two staff remained on site to cover any maintenance issues during the evening games.
Main picture: Martin Clark and Chuck Crampton.
Pictures: Lendl v Cash in the Earl’s Court tennis arena.
Showsec security and sponsor Masarati.