The goal was to transform Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots and New England Revolution, into a huge venue for a “Game Day Gala” — a tailgate-like fundraiser for a nonprofit organization that would involve nearly 1,000 guests. While that sounds pretty straightforward for the team at PEAK Event Services, based in Woburn, Mass., there were some distinct caveats that made this event anything but ordinary.
“This was the 10-year anniversary of this event for Team Impact, which partners children, adolescents and adults who have life-altering and life-threatening disabilities with a collegiate sports team so they can be honorary members of that team and have an inclusive experience,” says Tarryn Prosper, vice president of sales — tent division at PEAK Event Services. “They usually have had it in a ballroom-type setting, but with continuing concerns about COVID-19, they decided to host an outdoor event and really amplify things a bit. But because of the pandemic, we didn’t get the green light on this until late spring. That meant we had only a few months to plan an event of this size that would typically need several months or even a year.”
The second was time restrictions. “We had to work within the Patriots’ football schedule and the Revolution’s soccer schedule. It ultimately allowed us 38 hours to load everything in, including production and the entire event, and then 31 hours to tear down and load everything out,” she says.
Those restrictions were extremely daunting considering all the different elements the team at PEAK Event Services was in charge of including:
Tents: “We ended up erecting a 30-by-90-meter structure to accommodate the guest count. The structure was a combination of clear and solid tops. It took us 18 hours to physically build the structure, which in and of itself is phenomenal. That is roughly 30,000 sq. ft. of tent, all with a quarter-million pounds of weight that we had to bring in,” Prosper says.
In addition, the team erected a 30-by-75-ft. catering tent on one side of the main tent, a smaller 15-by-40-ft. bussing tent for the caterer on the other side, two other 20-by-60-ft. tents for staff and volunteers with the nonprofit, and a 20-by-30-ft. tent and a 25-by-60-ft. tent to cover the luxury restroom trailers that included an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compatible trailer.
Accessories: “Rather than doing dining tables, we seated every group in a collection of chairs, which we refer to as pods. We provided all the associated china, crystal, silver, glassware, tables, bars, linens — all those other supporting rentals. Team Impact’s colors are red, white and blue, so we used red Astroturf on the floor of the tent and used black Astroturf outside the tent in the cocktail area,” Prosper says.
Production: To accomplish all of this, the team had a very strict production schedule to make sure all elements of the project worked cohesively.
“It was a very well-thought-out and well-planned production so we could ensure successful execution. In the event world, we all say, ‘There is no tomorrow. It has to be done today.’ We just worked,” Prosper says.
Because of their thorough planning, “if one thing experienced a hiccup, we understood what those possible ripples would be and how to overcome them. We had plan A, B and C. We looked at how we would navigate if it rained or if there was lightning,” she adds.
The company also was very strict with crew scheduling. “We had different shifts running consecutively — for a total of 30 to 40 team members on site at various times. We had staff staying in local accommodations so we didn’t have to worry about any traffic delays or things outside our control. We brought in meals so they didn’t have to leave but just break for lunch, breakfast, coffee and dinner. We worked around the clock to get this all up and make it happen,” she says.
The PEAK Event Services team used part of the parking lot alongside the stadium to pre-stage all the materials, so they knew everything was there before they began. “We then shuttled everything from that lot to the field rather than from our warehouse. We did the same thing on the load out. We shuttled to the lot to get everything off the field so the stadium could commence with their regular necessary activities. Then we shuttled from the lot back to our warehouse,” Prosper says.
By the time everything was set, the PEAK Event Services team had taken up almost the entire allotted space. “A regulation football field is 160 ft. wide by 360 ft. long. Our structure was around 100 ft. by 300 ft., so we nearly took up a regulation football field. Once we added in the all the ancillary components and outdoor space, we ended up in a footprint that was about 200 ft. by 370 ft. — so we took up nearly the entire playing surface, sidelines and all of it,” Prosper says.
The end result: The event went off without a hitch. Guests arrived from the underbelly of the stadium onto the exterior cocktail area. The weather, which had been quite iffy during the setup, cleared and enhanced an enjoyable outdoor event. Even the teardown went well.
“What was particularly cool is that while we had that very tight time frame of 31 hours to load everything out, we well exceeded that and loaded everything out in about 22 hours,” Prosper says.
When all was loaded out, Prosper and her team finally had a moment to assess what had transpired. “For us, one of the bigger takeaways is that if you are thinking in real time, you have failed. What I mean by that is we always have to be five, six or seven steps ahead. We found that if you put in the proper time ahead of time, work with the right people and go through all the scenarios, you can be successful in circumstances that might otherwise not seem possible,” she says.