If you need to create intricate staging for a concert venue, add luxury seating to an existing stadium or venue, install television towers for your event, ensure that your event adheres to still-in-place coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions or even desire a semi-permanent stadium for your sports team to play in while its fans have a great experience, there is one unique rental company to turn to: InProduction, based in Warrenville, Ill.
“We transform space,” says John Campanelli, CEO. “We can convert any space into an arena or venue. That is what we have been doing for years.”
It all began in 2015 when Campanelli saw the need for a company that would bring together “the best seating and staging companies — starting with SGA Production Services, adding and integrating T&B Equipment, CommuniLux Productions, Nussli U.S. and Seating Solutions — into a one-stop shop for most of what is necessary to serve the end markets we serve — corporate, entertainment, golf and all other sports that aren’t golf,” he says. “We rebranded our legacy companies — several of which go back 40 years — into InProduction in 2017.”
Its latest offering — the creation of modular stadiums — was a natural outgrowth for the company.
“For years we have been putting up seating, staging, scenic and other structures. In particular, one of the pieces of business that we have built every year and kept getting bigger was the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Eventually we built a coliseum around the par-3 16th hole. It held up to 20,000 fans. As we started building a lot of structures on a temporary basis for golf, we looked at it and decided in 2016 that we could start building modular stadiums that are faster, quicker to install, were more flexible and cost-effective for sports teams and other entities. We started down that path pre-pandemic. The first location we did that for was in conjunction with the United Soccer League (USL),” Campanelli says.
The USL was a perfect fit for the talents of InProduction because “they were looking to build out their soccer stadiums and soccer leagues, not only in major cities but also going into smaller cities. They needed a more cost-effective solution for their stadiums as opposed to building $50 million stadiums that would take years to construct. We came up with some solutions, starting with the stadium for the Phoenix Rising. When we started, we told them we could sell or rent it to them,” Campanelli says.
That initial stadium proved to be a game-changer for the league. Josh Keller, senior vice president of corporate development and partnerships, USL, highlighted the importance of those venues to the league during a recent InProduction podcast. “The trend we are seeing is that soccer is expanding beyond the major metros. The growth of our league over the past three or four years and where we see the real opportunity moving forward is when our teams can get their own stadiums. Having your own stadium vs. being a tenant changes the business model, culture and everything about a team in that community,” he says, adding that InProduction is a preferred supplier to the league for that reason.
It isn’t just the USL that has found benefit in the concept. It turned out to be attractive to many.
According to Campanelli, the stadiums have “taken our seating designs to a new level. We continue to push the envelope on how big we can build and how fast we can safely do so. Our expertise and experience give us credibility. We have come up with more efficient designs and expanded our fabrication capabilities, which allow us to customize. Sometimes the client doesn’t need a new stadium. They just might need to figure out how to get 1,000 more people in the stadium they have. We have the capability to be more efficient. That customization and fabrication is important to our client base. During the pandemic, creation of these semi-permanent stadiums has become our most sought-after service, along with our social-distancing designs.”
The biggest selling points are that “modular stadiums, which are built with steel and aluminum vs. concrete, are a flexible, cost-effective way to get your team on the field and fans in the stands. In a matter of weeks after design, a stadium can be built for your organization. Additionally, adding temporary solutions such as VIP Suites, supplemental seating or party platforms that fit into the landscape in place and the ability to make them bigger as their fan base grows, allows additional income return that will outweigh the investment,” he says.
The flexibility of this design concept was put to the test this year when InProduction’s crew disassembled the Phoenix Rising stadium and moved it to a new plot of land 18 miles away. “We tore it down, moved it, reassembled it and expanded it. That is the test of modular,” he says, adding that the entire project was a success.
The company’s latest stadium project is with the University of Hawaii.
“The University of Hawaii had been playing their football games at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, which has been condemned. They were faced with the obstacle of ‘Where can they play their football games?’ We are in the process of constructing a modular stadium for them around the football field that they have on campus, the Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Complex. Where they had about 3,500 seats, we are adding 5,000 seats, new press boxes and additional hospitality suites. The new stadium will be ready for them for their first home game in September. They plan to use that stadium for three years or so until Aloha Stadium is torn down and rebuilt. If that doesn’t happen, they can continue to use this stadium for many years to come,” Campanelli says.
In addition, every year at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Fla., the InProduction team “puts in 15,000 seats for added capacity of that stadium, which is a permanent site for the annual Florida/Georgia football game that is attended by 80,000 people. We do an expansion to that stadium. That is the beauty of our seating — it’s very modular. We can create a free-standing structure or supplement other structures as well,” he says.
The company also has done work at NFL stadiums to transform them for other sports. “We worked on the Miami Open at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, which is the home of the Miami Dolphins. We put up three sides and created a tennis stadium inside the football stadium for the Miami Open,” Campanelli says.
More on the strictly entertainment end, the company has erected stadiums — what Campanelli terms as amphitheaters. “One of the first ones that we did was Live Nation at the FivePoint Amphitheatre in Irving, Calif. This is the fourth season they have been using that. We have created another one for Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort in Michigan for its summer concert series. We put it up and then take it down as compared with the one for Live Nation that stays up,” he says.
The pandemic didn’t slow the company down. “The interesting thing about these stadiums is that because they are more permanent in nature and can be used for years, the modular stadium business was not impacted as much as the short-term event rental businesses because people have a longer-term planning horizon,” Campanelli says.
In addition to working on stadiums during the pandemic, they were called upon to help venues implement added social distancing and safety measures.
“For a lot of our traditional applications, we redesigned seating with social distancing guidelines and one-way egress traffic to avoid contact. We replaced a lot of seating with more open environment structures — spaced out for more standing room and those types of things — to allow events to still happen and have fans, but not in the traditional seating styles. We also developed sanitary dividers and plexiglass to keep announcers, teams and officials separated from other parts of the environment,” he says.
For instance, for the basketball playoffs “bubble” in Orlando, Fla., the InProduction team provided “social distancing concepts to keep the announcers and staff in as clean and safe an environment as can be — separating them from where the cameras and crew were, etc. We provided very precision-designed plexiglass dividers and risers — changing them in a three-dimensional way, using height and width — to separate individuals where we could. That was very successful,” Campanelli says.
The company also offers the rental of TV towers. Clients, such as NBC, the Golf Channel and Fox, were in high need of these during the pandemic because “so many events were being televised. There might not have been any fans at those events, but they still needed camera crews to televise them,” he says.
Campanelli sees the future of his company as very bright. “We focus on what we are good at — the structure and seating. Our services relate to the fan experience. We want to help get fans into the stadium to help the planner generate revenue and provide sightlines, viewing lines and comfort for the fan so they want to come back. We have an end-to-end process, having the ability to do most everything, from the concept to the fabrication to streamlining delivery and installation in order to execute a memorable and successful event. We believe the long-term trend is for better seating and better hospitality for elevating the spectator experience. That continues to be an overriding theme. That is what we do so well,” he says.