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Game Set and Match

We talk to tournament director, Chris Kermode and Arena Structures project director Ron Smith to find out how The Queen’s Club is transformed into an international sports venue for this annual, week-long event in the run-up to Wimbolden

Published in Sports Management 2012 issue 2
Read on turning pages | Download PDF of this issue

Chris Kermode,

Championships’ tournament director,

AEGON

Chris Kermode
Chris Kermode

What are the Lawn Tennis Association’s (LTA) main aims in staging the AEGON Championships at The Queen’s Club?
For one week every year in the run-up to Wimbledon, The Queen’s Club in London needs to be transformed from a members-only club into an international sporting venue, which welcomes more than 60,000 spectators, and attracts many of the world’s best players. Some of the most celebrated champions in tennis history appear on the club’s Roll of Honour – including John McEnroe, Pete Sampras and Boris Becker.

The LTA’s goal is to grow and sustain British tennis and we deliver world-class events in order to help achieve this. The AEGON Championships enjoys a high profile and is an important part of our commercial programme. The success of these events allows the LTA to invest more money into the sport in this country. The tournament has featured virtually every significant player in the sport and the LTA is committed to seeking and maintaining the growth of the event’s world-class appeal.

What were the key tournament developments in recent years?
The AEGON Championships is a sell-out event, but every year we attempt to improve the experience for our spectators and hospitality guests.

In recent years, the tournament has expanded to utilise every square inch of the Queen’s Club and ensure that it fulfils its potential.

Sponsored for many years by Stella Artois, the event was renamed the AEGON Championships in 2009 as part of a new partnership between the LTA and AEGON – the global life assurance and pensions firm. During that time the tournament re-branded accordingly, which meant changing the event’s ivery from red to blue.

Such has been the success of the tournament since AEGON’s introduction, the event was shortlisted for Best Sponsorship of an Event or Competition at the Sport Industry Awards.

The tournament has a broadcast partnership with the BBC, which ensures at least 20-hours of terrestrial television coverage in the UK and further significant coverage on BBC Radio 5 Live and the BBC Sport website. The tournament is also covered live by Eurosport, and receives huge interest from national and international print media – generating front-page news following the title wins of Andy Murray in 2009 and 2011.

What are the key logistical challenges surrounding event overlay?
The most significant aspect is that we are turning a working tennis club in a residential area into an international tennis tournament, which welcomes 64,000 people through the gates as
well as some of the world’s best tennis players – in a single week.

The surrounding residential properties make the six-week build period for the tournament a huge challenge. The narrow, winding streets make life difficult for the articulated lorries, which deliver our stands, seats and other materials, but we liaise closely with the council on traffic management schemes to help with this. Working hours must be adhered to and keeping the club operational for its members for as long as possible is another important consideration.

Then there is the weather to consider. Traditionally, the AEGON Championships enjoys good weather, but inevitably this is not always the case. Last year, the final day was rained off, so it was rescheduled for the following day. This was a logistical challenge in terms of the staff and contractors who needed to work an additional day and the ticket holders who needed to be looked after. In the end it turned out to be a fantastic additional day of tennis with another great, sell-out atmosphere.

There’s a good relationship between the tournament team and the overlay specialists, which is important – given what is involved in staging an event of this size and stature. The LTA’s operations and hospitality teams deal with the overlay partners on a daily basis in the months leading up to the tournament. During the construction period this relationship is crucial to ensure that there are no insurmountable logistical hiccups.

From an operational standpoint, in recent years the tournament has added a new front entrance to improve crowd flow, along with a public champagne bar. We have also worked closely with Creative Technology to enhance show production and on-site content, including colourful video features with match highlights and an upgrade to digital scoreboards and information screens.

The livery at The Queen’s Club in 
Wimbledon was changed from red 
to blue when AEGON took over from 
Stella Artois as the event sponsors
The livery at The Queen’s Club in Wimbledon was changed from red to blue when AEGON took over from Stella Artois as the event sponsors

Ron Smith,

Project director,

Arena Structures

Ron Smith
Ron Smith

What does the partnership between the LTA, The Queens Club and the Arena Group involve?
Arena Structures is one of many partners that help transform The Queen’s Club for the week of the championships, by providing the tournament with temporary structures, seating, scaffolding and interiors.

We’ve supported the LTA and its sponsors AEGON to help evolve a world-class sporting venue, befitting the increasing status of this annual tournament. We work closely with the LTA in delivering an enhanced visitor experience, while also ensuring the commercial partners’ brand aspirations are met.

What sets this tournament apart and how has the event’s overlay evolved over the years?
Arena Structures’ relationship with this event tracks back three decades; during which time both the overlay company and the event venue have evolved beyond recognition.

Three years ago, the event saw 9,000 blue seats added, in-line with the new sponsors (AEGON) branding; last year Arena introduced a new range of innovative developments.

The AEGON Championships enjoys a very special atmosphere, with a unique intimacy between the players and fans and we have to maintain that central ethos as we develop the facilities. Last year we assisted the LTA in improving the retail and catering offerings for the public, while the custom interior design for the organisers and sponsors reflected their status and aspirations.

The Arena Group has recently restructured following a £16.5m investment by new partners Sports Investment Partners (SIP) and growth capital investor, MML Capital, in-line with the companies delivery of event overlay to major international sporting tournaments.

Double-decked hospitality structures, covering an area of approximately 100m x 40m, housed guests on its upper level with pink interiors and separate bespoke-design sponsors’ suites, while public catering and retail areas were situated on the lower level. The structure was 5m wider than in 2010 and built to accommodate more guests and incorporate a new retail outlet.

Also new for last year’s tournament was the introduction of a new 20m x 30m double-decked structure to house the Crown Club lounge, a new champagne bar and public dining area. Inside, our partners Spaceworks and Well Dressed Tables created bespoke interiors that provided individual areas for hospitality with furniture, glassware, cutlery and china across the venue.

What does the event’s overlay management involve?
The Queen’s Club is a logistically challenging and sensitive location to work within, requiring months of planning and organisation once on site. We co-ordinate with multiple stakeholders, including local neighbours and London Police, to escort 35 of our 57 arctic lorries the wrong way up a one way street. We supplied 8,800 spectator seats, 12,500sq m of temporary structures and 100 tonnes of substructure scaffolding last year.

Over the years, we have looked at the challenges The Queens Club presents as a venue and the event seating solutions have spread back into the company and benefited many other clients. For example, due to our R&D, we’ve invested in creating bespoke grandstand media boxes and corner seating elements that have allowed us to maximise capacity, while helping the organisers deliver a great audience experience through improving the atmosphere.”

Last year we introduced a bespoke scaffolding frame and full branding at the rear frame of the main grandstand to deliver sharp lines and a permanent feel to the area.

We re-engineered the grandstands substructure to widen tunnel walkways and removed pillars from the centre court’s entrance tunnel to improve crowd flow, while the glossy, white, solid boarding with branding images gave a brighter, sharper feel within the tunnels. We applied this same fresh style across the site to deliver a pristine finish that transformed the temporary overlay and enhanced the venue’s image for this event.

What does the future hold?
Delivering a complete temporary sporting venue, the 2011 event was given a new appearance by event organisers, by altering the site layout through intelligent engineering, maximising the use of space and sharpening the
aesthetic finish.

The 2012 AEGON Championships is one of the first of this summer’s iconic international sporting events, taking place on 11th to 17th June. Given the tenacity of the experienced and ambitious team behind the scenes to deliver a great event it is certain to continue setting standards for world class event management this year and far beyond.

Bespoke design creates individual areas
Bespoke design creates individual areas
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