Stageco pulls out the stops for Obama's inauguration

Wednesday, 21 January 2009
Stageco pulls out the stops for Obama's inaugurationBruce Springsteen performing at the Inauguration.
USA - Stageco US was at the heart of the production team putting together the celebratory concert welcoming President Barack Obama into office in Washington DC. Stars including Bruce Springsteen, Beyonce, Mary J Blige, Stevie Wonder, U2 and Elvis Costello feted the president elect, while hundreds of thousands of people attended the free concert.

The event footprint was 2.5 miles long, stretching from the Lincoln Memorial in the west, around the Washington Monument, to the Capitol Building in the east, with a main stage and an extensive system of delay and video towers running the entire length of the site.

The stage-building team installed a 166ft x 60ft multi-level stage including two audio/video support structures, two lighting support towers and two 122ft x 80ft audience viewing platforms with video support platforms built at the rear.

In one of the biggest event-building operations ever, Stageco shipped in nearly half a million tons of scaffolding on 28 flatbed trucks from all over the USA. For logistical efficiency the site was divided in two, each with its own crew of eight Stageco supervisors plus 20 - 30 local labourers.

The tower crew was responsible for the installation of 27 audio and video delay towers down the mall, which were used for the inauguration ceremony itself on Tuesday 20 January to project sound and images to the record crowds attending the swearing in of President Obama.

Stageco was working with production company C3 Presents, known for its work on events like Austin City Limits, Lollapalooza and the Chicago election night rally for Barack Obama.

The fast-moving nature of the event planning, dictated largely by the political process, meant that precise plans could only be drawn up relatively late in the day. "Shortly after the election night rally C3 Presents informed us that they would need us to provide items for the inauguration," says Mary Lou Figley, Stageco's vice-president of US operations. "At the time they had very few details.

"It was not until the week before Christmas that we received specifications and structures from the client. We were informed shortly afterwards that the build was to begin on 8 January. This gave us three weeks to design, approve, engineer and ship all the structures. The designers were making changes even as we were loading material on the trailers. Working around the Christmas and New Year's holidays added to the challenge."The company also liaised with the US's National Parks Department, which runs the National Mall, who insisted that all the necessary documentation was in place before the build could start. Stageco's staff worked through the Christmas and New Year's holidays to complete the planning process. Engineers successfully completed the documentation in time by working well under great time pressure.

"This is one of the most historic presidential elections in the history of the United States," says Figley. "It is an honour and the highest privilege for Stageco to be involved on such a large scale in the events marking this historical day. We are all proud of the work we have done and this event will stay with us as we move forward."

(Jim Evans)

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