We are watching a video from one of the biggest sports and entertainment halls in Poland. A team of 10 people are struggling to slide out the ‘drawers’ of a telescopic grandstand, one by one. Every time, a row of sturdy men stand in front of the stand, pulling on the structure in jerks. Metal parts rub against each other and against the floor with loud squeaking. It is like grappling with a broken sofa bed. “Heroic fight, isn’t it?” Piotr Ernt, a Project Manager at Forum Seating, a brand of the Nowy Styl Group, is sympathising with the people in the video. “There can be two causes of this kind of resistance. The first one may be the design of the stand, which is missing guiding elements such as wheels and rollers. The second may be stand maintenance. If there is insufficient time to unfold the grandstand, people tend to work by force, which is the fastest route to damaging it. Most of the time, the second cause results from the first one” he explains.
Manufacturer’s hands are tied when it goes for stand maintenance, but the design, mechanisms used, quality and safety all depend solely on him. “At Forum Seating, we give absolute priority to these areas. What's more, we keep improving our products so that they meet the increasingly complex requirements” adds Piotr Ernt. “Just look at this” he plays back another video from an ultra-modern facility in France, for which the brand has made a curved telescopic grandstand. Subsequent segments slide out propelled by engines to form an auditorium looking like an ancient theatre auditorium. We are also watching a video with smaller, linear telescopic grandstands from the same facility. “Pay attention now” the manager makes a pause before his favourite part of the video, in which the grandstand rotates in place and sets itself at a selected angle. Impressive!
Teatr Dramatyczny, Warsaw, Poland
A game today, a conference tomorrow
The French project is one of Forum Seating’s showpieces. The company is famous primarily for providing seats for stadiums, including those hosting major events such as world or European championships. For example stadiums in Qatar, where the World Cup in football will be held in three years from now. Qatar is building or renovating some of their impressive facilities for the event, and Forum Seating has already secured most contracts for the supply of stadium seats. “Indeed, grandstands are less of a topic now, even though they can be extremely high-tech projects” says Anna Madej, Head of Project Support Department at Forum Seating. “The challenge is bigger, because event halls of today are multi-purpose venues. They don’t just host various sports disciplines, but also all sorts of different types of events. For example, we can have a volleyball game today, a conference tomorrow, a handball or basketball tournament the day after and a grand ball on the next day. Facilities have to pay for themselves, which forces quick adjustability to needs. The ability to unfold and fold the auditorium as quickly as possible is key, of course.”
Savings through precision
Forum Seating representatives are confident that picking their product will translate into savings of time and costs of operation. Piotr Ernt claims it only takes two people to unfold the grandstand, which he proves on a demonstration piece. It is a few-metre long segment and it unfolds as if it weighed nothing. “We use a great lot of rollers and wheels to make sure the grandstand is guided along a straight line. Of course, this generates some extra cost, but it will pay off in future” he says, pointing to the previously mentioned event venue, heavily troubled by the “grandstand problem”. In the end, the venue ended up having their telescopic tribunes partially replaced. The job was entrusted to Forum Seating.
Jordanki Culture and Congress Centre, Toruń, Poland
Designed for special tasks
The manufacturer from south-eastern Poland has several projects with telescopic grandstands on its track record. The company has installed them in Poland and abroad, in facilities of all sizes, from small halls up to auditoriums seating thousands of spectators. Winning subsequent contracts is made easier by the fact that Forum Seating is a member of the Nowy Styl Group, a European leader in office furniture and seating for public spaces, which means it can undertake orders that take more time to deliver, using the resources and potential of the entire Group. In addition, the brand allows customisation of basic products on its offer, something that smaller manufacturers cannot afford. The kind of complications it encounters are best illustrated by the previously mentioned project in France, where each of the almost 200 rows was curved on a different radius. This meant titanic work for design engineers, and then production and assembly teams. The whole set is working flawlessly. “This shows the scale of our potential” emphasizes Anna Madej. “If we can deliver such advanced projects, assembling grandstands that consist of simple, repetitive segments is not a problem for us.”
Projects such as the Cultural and Congress Centre Jordanki in Toruń, on the other hand, are seen as a challenge. Administrators of the venue knew right from the start that standard telescopic tribunes would definitely not meet their expectations. They needed a solution that would be even more flexible, designed specifically for the unusual space. “For the Toruń project, we developed an innovative concept of a multifunctional auditorium based on stable metal frames. The individual modules can be put together like building blocks to arrange any configuration needed. By splitting the main grandstand you can obtain several smaller ones, or even completely dismantle the stand and store it under the stage, if necessary" Anna Madej summarises the main features of the project.
The Forum Seating team could talk about the projects they have completed for many hours, breaking them down into small parts. They just live and breathe their work, and treat every project as their baby. This guarantees they care about it as best they can.
Ainterexpo Salle Ekinox, Bourg en Bresse, France
The story was orginally published in Sports and Recreation Construction Magazine