SUPER STRUCTURES: An interview with Chris Mansell, Seating & Stadia Operations Director, GL events UK

In the following interview, we hear insights from Chris Mansell, Seating & Stadia Operations Director at GL events UK, on the latest developments, projects and trends in the seating and events industry.


How long have you worked in the seating and events industry? How did you get to where you are?

I’ve been in the industry for 23 years. I have to say, things got off to a quick start. On the first day of my first seating job, I flew to Atlanta for the 1996 Olympics. There, we established and monitored a seating assembly shop for a 35,000-seat contract. Since, then I’ve been part of a team that’s delivered temporary infrastructure across four Olympics, including the installation of seating grandstands across 17 venues at London 2012, two Commonwealth Games, and seven Open golf championships.  


I began work in permanent stadium construction in 2007, installing upgraded seats at existing stadia, as well as constructing stadia and stands. My first stand was at Gloucestershire Rugby Club, and since then we’ve worked at Blackpool, Barnett, Boreham Wood, Watford and Exeter City Football Clubs, Plymouth Argyle, Worcestershire RFC and Kent Cricket.


We’ve been able to be ambitious, taking on more projects and bigger briefs, because we have a great team and the right mindset. I’m lucky enough to have hand-picked the best possible people, and we stay in daily contact. We benefit from being a part of the wider GL events UK team and global GL events Group, which means we have everything in place to match our own ambitions as a team.


For the Worcester Warriors, GL events UK installed 7,000 seats, plus new conferencing, banqueting, teaching and toilet areas


Tell us about seating and stadia within GL events, is it a big part of the business?

GL events UK has included a specialist seating and stadia division since 2012. Our team includes specialists – structural engineers, specialist designers, a dedicated CAD team, a small team of project managers with decades of experience – who deliver temporary, semi-permanent and permanent projects right across the events and stadia industries.


In the UK, our seating division is a massive growth area for the business, as events clients seek quality, safe and convenient integrated solutions for complete temporary infrastructure. We play a role in the global GL events Group, too, with our most experienced staff often seconded to oversee temporary stadia installations for major international tournaments and events taking place throughout the world.


How do you work with sports businesses? What sort of solutions do you offer?

Unusually (unlike the big guys) our approach is consultative and highly client-driven. We’re collaborative and we believe in making our team a part of the client’s team, hands-on and always on-hand.


We offer sports businesses a complete, start to finish solution. Our stands and stadium projects can be as simple or complex as the client requires and they’re always as individual as the club or stadium itself. Seating is just the beginning. Stands can incorporate a complete fit-out: dining and conference spaces, event control, concessions, media, player, medical and spectator facilities. Our team takes care of everything from planning to utilities, safety and construction.


For Barnet Football Club, GL events UK installed some 5,600 seats in total for the West stand and North terrace replacements


How do you work with clubs to manage additional spectators for different sporting events?

Temporary stadium expansions are the perfect solution. You can see GL events’ temporary grandstand for Lancashire County Cricket Club in place at Emirates Old Trafford and, further afield, at Eden Park Stadium in New Zealand, where we first installed a stadium extension for the Rugby World Cup. We’ll design a bespoke grandstand, including whatever features and facilities are required – and can install it in days.


A temporary grandstand can be in place for a single event – one concert – one season; or longer-term. It can also be taken out and re-installed, reconfigured, or further expanded at any point during the season. You can see this solution in place at sporting clubs like Edgbaston Priory, where we create short-term expansions of permanent facilities for events like the Nature Valley Classic. For lower-league clubs, this ability to be flexible is crucial. They can meet league standards upon promotion without large capital outlay or commitment.


How good are these products, how close are they to ‘normal’ grandstands?

There’s no limit to what can be achieved. Our products range from general admission seats to VVIP options and we’re always open to developing even more innovative products. With temporary grandstands, our product always offers the best possible view as we employ a steeper rake and, unless the client specifies otherwise, we supply Olympic-standard seat dimensions, wider and deeper than the average tiered seating product.


How has the world of seating changed, what do spectators expect these days?

Definitely comfort, accessibility, inclusivity. Expectations are high and rightly so. Our response is to deliver: the quietest possible temporary stadia installations, no annoying gaps for phones and keys to drop into the structure, toilets, cash machines. We can also install Wi-Fi enabled temporary grandstands which means, with sports like golf, the spectator can combine a live and a digital experience to see and share as much as possible, making the most of and really making themselves a part of the atmosphere at the tournament.


What should we expect from GL events UK in the next 12 months?

We’ll finish our current £6.5m redevelopment of Plymouth’s Mayflower Stand in October. We also have a number of stadia projects, UK-wide, ranging from small to large, in the pipeline. You’ll see GL events’ tiered seating products in place at live TV audience events, at concerts, theatres, festivals, conferences, graduations and across dozens of new contracts and partnerships for 2019!


Huge thanks to Chris for taking the time to do this interview with us.


Images, courtesy: GL events UK


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