When the Winston-Salem Open was born last October, there was enough time to build a 13-court tennis complex before August rolled around. But there wasn’t enough time to build a permanent stadium for the main show court.
Enter Jeffrey Robins and the crew at T&B Equipment Co.
T&B is a company based in Ashland, Va., that specializes in temporary seating structures and hospitality suites for sporting events and other special occasions.
It is currently constructing a 4,000-seat temporary grandstand around the main show court, and is providing seating for up to 1,000 on outer show courts.
Robins believes that fans will be pleased with the results.
"This thing is going to look, to the untrained eye, as close to a permanent structure as you can come," Robins said. "We dress it up with carpet and a fresh coat of paint and everything is wrapped with a very tight windscreen, and it looks pretty close to permanent."
T&B Equipment has been in the special event industry since 1976. Among its clients are the Waste Management Phoenix Open golf tournament, with its famous 16th hole grandstands; the Players Championship; the Quail Hollow Championship in Charlotte; and the ACC basketball tournament when it is held at the Georgia Dome.
For the past three years, T&B has provided temporary seating at Wake Forest’s BB&T Field, in the North end zone.
Robins has a crew of anywhere from 7-15 workers at the site.
Construction of the grandstand started last week and is a three-week process, although in a different sense it started months ago with designs and drawings of various seating options.
"It takes two weeks to build all the scaffolds and get all the seats in place, and then the final week we do the guard rails and build the ramps and get the carpet down and get it all meshed and hide all the scaffolding," Robins said. "We’re building a couple of video board structures in the main stadium, too, and things are kind of changing and morphing as we build it. You sort of get a plan in place, but we’re having to work around electricians and landscapers, so it’s a real coordinated effort from all these people trying to finish this thing."
The fact that electricians and landscapers and other crews are all around doesn’t faze Robins. That’s just business as usual as far as he’s concerned.
"We’re used to it," he said. "We do a lot of PGA Tournaments where it’s the same thing. Basically everything is in play when we come. We put the flags in the ground on the front line, and then the whole site is our playground and we bring in the big boy erector set.
"The one thing we have to be aware of is what the other crews are doing. For example, one day they were pouring the asphalt base on the main access road, so I had to stage equipment coming in. I’ve got to be looking two to three days ahead all the time to try to figure out where they’re going to be construction-wise. It really is a team effort. Each day we’re having a pow-wow together to figure out what we got completed, what’s next, and how long that is going to take.
"So it’s not like I’m the seat vendor and I’m just doing my thing. I’m having to break down and schedule and prioritize and move around as the site is sort of handed over to me."
Robins estimates that it’ll take a week to 10 days to take the grandstand down after the tournament ends.
After that, Winston-Salem Professional Tennis officials will make the decision whether to build a permanent stadium, or to bring Robins and crew back again next year.