A quite remarkable thing happened in Spain last week. Coldplay put on a show at the Vincente Calderon Stadium, home of Athletico Madrid. Nothing particularly amazing about that, and my friend Paco Norman Alonso (cousin to Fernando he told me!! Joke I suspect. Maybe not, the way he drives!) was contracted via Rola-Trac Iberica to install the pitch protection systems.
What was wholly remarkable was that 36 hours after the concert, Barcelona played Athletic de Bilbao in the Copa del Rey. The biggest trophy in Spanish Football and Pep Guadiolas last game in charge of Barcelona.
Paco is a great friend of many years and is another person who features high in my network of business contacts. We have worked together for some 12 years and grew up together in the event infrastructure industry. I first met Paco in 1999 when I was part of a start up company, called Rola-Trac. Some 12 years later, the pitch flooring systems (we helped develop) have protected football grounds all over the world, when performers such as the Rolling Stones or U2 come to town.. That is just to name a couple! If you want, you could go on with the Police, Bruce Springsteen, the Cure, Robbie Williams, Take that, The Who, Genesis, Bon Jovi and many more yaddah yaddah!.
Coldplay 20th May 2012
36 Hours later!
To give you an idea of what happens at these events.
To get an act on stage at 9pm on a Saturday night takes a load of effort and many different organisations working together. A concert of this size would usually take about 4 days to build and 2 days to derig. The normal time for a show is at season end, when the pitch has a month or two before the new season starts.
It is fair to say that the people on the pitch, are relatively easily taken care of by light weight systems, that can be installed quickly. Where the challenge comes, is how you cater for the 500 tonne stage construction at one end of the pitch. The chances are, they will some how need to get 2 if not 3 (50-80 tonne) cranes in on the build. These huge & heavy vehicles tend to get positioned some where near the edge of the box, in order to reach all sectors of the stage. In summary, whenever they do these stadium gigs, the organisers are creating a serious construction site, in a place where it just is not meant to happen. Hallowed turf of a La Liga Club.
If you work on the basis the average groundsmen would only be happy, if nobody played football on his beloved pitch; you can work out that a 80 tonne crane is about as welcome as a rash in an awkward spot!
Add on to that the fact you are playing a national cup final a day and a half later, and you are really cutting yourself out for some serious work.
Anyway, as you can see Paco and Rola-Trac pulled it off. The art of what Paco does is to protect the levels of the pitch. This you cant get back easily, if things go wrong. In the stage areas they used heavy duty aluminium panels and in concert goers area they used the Supa-Trac system. Where the crowd had been you would hardly notice they had been there. (On the whole the cover acts as a bit of a green house and the grass grows like Crazy.)
Where the stage construction goes on you generally find there is a planned returf or seed. There is little you can do when you cover the ground for a number of days blocking out any light or water. As stated the important fact is to protect the level of the ground and all the under ground infrastructure (heating and irrigation systems)
On this occasion the concert finished at 2230 at night. Hull tigers played Rugby on the same pitch the following day at 1730 in the evening. LESS THAN 24 HOURS!!
To be fair, it was not a national cup final and I think that the award for outstanding performance in 2012 will definitely rest in Oviedo, Spain for the Vicente Caledoron Great Escape!