When considering a long-term investment such as a new building, scalability is a primary topic in design and planning discussions. A project’s budget may not allow for the construction of all desired features in the first phase, and although expansion options may be difficult to predict, it is always advisable to design versatile facilities with ceiling heights generous because it is easier to stretch than to climb.
For an exhibition facility intended to host sporting events or concerts, a clear height of 30 feet or more in the large hall is recommended. Many touring volleyball and basketball organizations hold tournaments in convention center showrooms—particularly in urban areas—which have 35 to 40-foot clearance heights. Convention centers with ballrooms that host concerts and banquets with entertainment have overhead clearances on the order of 30 to 35 feet. This height allows any audio or visual components to be suspended from the rigging grid without interfering with the site lines of the entertainment being presented. It also minimizes the possibility of interference during sporting events. This extra height also gives venues the ability to install theater-style tiered seating for a variety of configurations.
An investment in optimum headroom is also beneficial for agricultural facilities that host livestock and equestrian events. From a facility comfort and biosecurity perspective, this increased volume creates more airflow during performances to minimize odor and dust buildup. With portable stalls and pens on flexible farm sites, these higher ceiling heights can incorporate safe riding arenas or livestock show arenas with tiered seating. For prefabricated structures that use gable roofs, the center of the floor is higher than the side walls. At a minimum, a clear height of 25 feet for the middle allows the space to accommodate volleyball or basketball courts for a large tournament.
Event producers want an unobstructed space so their shows have minimal obstructions. Attendees also expect clear site lines for the entertainment they’ve paid to see. Similarly, some horse shows require space for multiple warm-up arenas.
To meet these different event needs, the ideal column-less clear span length is 120 feet with 30-foot bays. This allows for a 100 foot wide equestrian practice arena with additional space for circulation, set up and take down. It also allows flexibility to accommodate basketball and volleyball courts in any direction. A 30-foot bay aligns the structure with a trade show or equestrian module consisting of 10-foot double-loaded aisles serving 10-by-10-foot booths or stalls. This also allows the power supply to be integrated directly into the configuration of a stand or booth.
If a clear span length of 120 feet is not feasible, a clear span length of 90 feet would still accommodate basketball courts in the direction of the clear span or side-by-side volleyball courts. A small animal show arena or smaller arena for horse shows would also fit into this module.
Ease of maintenance
A venue’s loading and unloading experience is a major consideration when customers book shows. This is especially true in farm lodges where loading areas are the front door. For many of these facilities that primarily provide stalls or enclosures, 14 by 14 foot overhead doors offer a cost effective way to meet the needs of most shows. Trucks and trailers can pass through these gates and forklifts can easily navigate a full load of stall panels or livestock. Aligning these large overhead gates along a 30-foot-wide cross-aisle allows vehicles to pass through the facility with ample clearance and allows for two-way movement of livestock during shows.
For sites focused on multi-purpose events, such as trade shows, conferences, sports, and live entertainment, a combination of loading strategies is recommended. Depending on the size of the main hall or event space, a tractor-trailer truck dock, two to three truck or van docks, and a walk-through bay are good starting points. The passageway door must be at least 20 feet by 16 feet. This arrangement has proven successful at The BASE (Business, Arts, Sports, Entertainment) designed by Populous, an exhibition center at the Heart O’ Texas Fairgrounds that has a 50,000 square foot venue and no queues. during loading and unloading. time. The BASE also includes a 25-foot-deep unloading and staging area, which allows for the transition of exhibit materials from the truck to the concourse. In addition to a large door, the BASE also has two overhead doors measuring 14 feet by 14 feet which provide access to a dividable hall.
Storage facilities should also be considered. Without dedicated storage space, sites often end up occupying a room that was intended for a customer-facing function or piling storage materials off site. These scenarios negatively impact revenue, customer experience, customer and employee safety, and the safety and longevity of invested equipment.
Adaptable event rooms
Incorporating flexible event rooms around a facility can broaden the offerings to customers and expand the type and scale of events that can be hosted. These rooms often represent a minimal investment that offers more rental space. Simple amenities like multiple outlets on each wall, a counter, or audio, visual, and data hookups offer significant benefits. These features increase the variety of possibilities a space can accommodate and meet a range of needs. Additions such as a lockable storage closet or restroom can further enhance the fan experience.
The edges of the facilities are ideal locations for these event hall spaces, as they allow for simultaneous programming, such as a larger livestock display or conference inside the building with smaller meetings or sessions in smaller rooms. event rooms. Ideally, a facility would have two event rooms each at the front of the house and the back of the house. Positioned near the loading dock, these rooms can be used as a green room for shows, a temporary security office, team changing rooms or a catering area for banquets.
When these four key design aspects are considered early in the planning of a project, a facility can reap the benefits for years to come. Designing with flexibility in mind helps minimize development and operating costs while maximizing revenue generation events and opportunities. Multi-purpose and flexible facilities also play a vital role in a community’s social infrastructure, providing space for local events. This, in turn, diversifies revenue streams, spreads investment and operating costs, and expands target audiences.
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2022 issue of Fairs & Expos magazine. Bill Bourne is Associate Director at Populous and a member of IAFE’s Strategic Planning Committee for Fair Trade.