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particularly challenging project that

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particularly challenging project that 
you were involved in?
Last summer we supplied new VIP 
seats for German top football side FC 
Schalke 04. VELTINS Arena with its 
retractable pitch is still one of the most 
modern stadiums in Europe. Because 
of this, no one VIP seating area was 
like another in terms of quantity of 
seats, measurements, positioning of 
stairways, etc. Measurement activities 
and planning took days and weeks. To 
increase the number of seats by 30% 
was another big challenge. Time to 
deliver was quite limited since they had 
staged some huge entertainment events 
Luxury seating  
areas, and the  
seats to go in  
them, are increasing in 
popularity. This is Stechert’s 
President Deluxe.
The Berlin tip-up 
seat in Berlin’s 
during the football off-season. We 
had to be very precise and accurate 
to accomplish our goals.
It sounds as if your solutions are 
designed for both new build projects 
and the renovation of existing venues? 
We do not offer just two or 
three models. This enables us 
to be ready for many different 
tasks. I do not know any seating 
company offering such a wide  

VELTINS Arena has re-equipped its VIP areas with the Hamburg model.
More information
Kay Habermaier, Head of Sales 
Sports and Auditorium Seating, 
Stechert. www.stechert.de
Heated VIP 
stadium seats 
at Stoke City.
portfolio of seats as Stechert does. It is 
simply a complete range of products all 
‘made in Germany’.
Which regions/countries do you see 
offering the best growth potential for 
your sports work? Are you hoping 
to be involved in any of the stadiums 
used for the future World Cups in 
Brazil, Russia or Qatar?
Of course, there is always some 
enhanced interest in countries with 
upcoming major events, e.g. Brazil 
(2014 World Cup), France (EURO 2016), 
Russia (2018 World Cup), Qatar (2022 
World Cup) etc. A lot of new stadiums 
with various demands (in terms of 
modular structure, legacy, in-country 
production) will be established in these 
countries. However, all over the world 
we see many new exciting projects 
emerging. India, Turkey, Northern Ireland 
– just to name a few. And not to leave 
out traditional football countries like 
England, Italy, or Spain.
How have you found the challenges 
of working in markets such as Brazil 
and Russia? Any advice for other 
companies also looking to work in 
these regions?
Everything goes step by step. You have 
to be patient. To have a solid partnership 
in terms of sales or even production is 
essential. A joint venture or a branch 
might make some sense. You just cannot 
sell your products over the phone or 
by email. Requirements for products 
are different. In Russia, material has to 
withstand temperatures up to -30°C; 
in Brazil or Qatar temperatures can 
reach up to +45°C. Quality control 
becomes an even bigger issue. 
Working in these countries intensive 
communication with the customer/
partner is of utmost importance. Both 
sides have to find a way to trust each 
other and to become a unit. Otherwise, 
you will not succeed. n

06–10 SEPTEMBER 2014
FROM 2014 T0 2017.

SSE Hydro Arena’s turnover crews are relying on Steeldeck retractable units 
that have been built for strength and durability. Failure is not an option.
Steeldeck at 
Glasgow’s new
SSE Hydro Arena
he team behind SSE Hydro, the new 
arena which opened in Glasgow in 
September and immediately claimed the 
crown of largest venue of its type in the 
UK and fifth largest in the world, had 
one over-riding goal: they wanted the 
best solutions to all of the challenges 
now hidden inside the building’s façade 
of translucent pneumatic cushions, 
which allow natural light to penetrate 
the foyers during the day while also 
giving a surface for eye catching 
lighting at night.
That meant that when assembling the 
usual vast array of sub-contractors 
required on a project of this scale the 
building’s owners, the Scottish Exhibition 
and Conference Centre (SECC), the 
architects, Foster+Partners, and the 
principal contractor, Lend Lease, were 
prepared to choose suppliers who could 
demonstrate their experience in the 
particular skills required, regardless 
of their size. Quality of work rather 
than business profile was the key 
deciding factor.
For the difficult task of creating seating 
blocks that not only had to retract 
out of sight when not in use, but do so 
while following the amphitheatre-like 
curve of Foster’s performance bowl 
located beneath a 120 metre clear-span 
roof, this led them to Steeldeck, the UK 
company which has gained considerable 
experience in creating exactly this kind 
of structure – albeit never before on the 
scale required in Glasgow.
Theatrical roots
Part of Steeldeck’s advantage is 
that while it does have a selection of 
standard designs to work from, most of 
its installations involve the creation of 
custom solutions built on the strengths 
of these core designs; Steeldeck’s 
ever-inventive team are used to, indeed 
thrive on, new challenges. The Steeldeck 
APack retractable seating system 
began life as a linear system, carefully 
engineered to allow each seating level 
to nest tightly beneath the one above 
and requiring very little additional 
depth when retracted. When Hampton 
School in Middlesex came looking for 
a curved motorised system for their 
theatre, APack’s structure provided the 
foundation from which a new curved 
design was created. 

Hampton School was where we took 
the team from Glasgow to show them 
what was possible,” Steeldeck’s Philip 
Parsons explains. “I’d arranged access, 
but when we arrived there was no-one 
to operate the controller for the seating. 
Just when it felt like this was going to 
be an embarrassing disaster, the Bursar 
appeared, greeted me warmly, offered 
to demonstrate the seating himself and 
raved about it in front of our guests. He 
did a far better selling job than I could 
have done...
The Glasgow team were clearly 
impressed – by the client 
recommendation (which is not unusual 
among Steeldeck customers), by 
the product, and also by the rugged 
engineering on view here and in other 
Steeldeck installations. This goes back 

to the company’s theatrical roots, 
firstly as a builder of scenery for some 
of London’s biggest shows, later as 
the creator of the Steeldeck modular 
staging system. This first appeared 
almost three decades ago and is still 
a world-wide standard with even the 
earliest production units still in use. The 
Steeldeck decking directly reflects the 
Steeldeck company’s ethos: designed 
for strength (a four leg deck will 
support 7.5kN/sqm), built in Steeldeck’s 
own workshops from the highest quality 
British steel to be tough enough to 
survive a long, harsh working life in 
the real world. “We had a structural 
engineer analyse Steeldeck once,” 
Parsons recalls. “He reported that when 
it eventually failed, everything would fail 
at the same time – which means there is 
no waste at all in the structure. He also 
commented that many of the concrete 
floors they design aren't that strong.
SEE Hydro’s 
retractable seating
Those same exacting standards were 
brought to the Glasgow project. 
Steeldeck was contracted to supply 
nine banks of nine-tier high curved 
retractable seating modules holding 
around 1200 seats (these manufactured 
by Figueras International Seating), which 
encircle the arena’s floor and either pull 
out to form the crucial link between 
the permanent upper seating that runs 
around the area and the arena floor, 
or retract beneath the upper seating, 
completely hidden from view to give 
a versatile flat performance space. 
To remove the seating, the seats are 
folded backwards in blocks of three or 
four and each bank is then driven back 
across the arena’s concrete floor, each 
level retracting beneath the previous 
with millimetre precision. Deploying or 
clearing each unit takes just minutes.

Hopefully it looks simple now,” Parsons 
notes. “But the key was that we wanted 
it to be rugged and reliable, not just 
now but throughout its working life. 
The crew in Glasgow will often be 
extending or retracting the theatre on a 
tight schedule as part of a turnaround 
between shows. I didn’t want our 
seating to ever be responsible for 
holding that process up; I’d prefer to 
over-engineer from the start to avoid 
that – especially for Glasgow, where the 
crowds are apparently a bit more lively 
than in some other cities!”  
Curved retractable seating deployed around 
SSE Hydro and (below) under construction. 

To achieve this, Steeldeck drew on its 
experience with creating staging and 
seating systems for performance 
venues around the world. Its seating 
systems include the mobile retractable 
seating units for the Lory Student Center 
at Colorado State University, a giant 
Steeldeck platform system for the Park 
Avenue Armory in New York, complex 
curved choir risers for the University of 
Wisconsin; its stages include venues as 
diverse as London’s Royal Albert Hall and 
the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, where 
the new Steeldeck-engineered stage and 
substructure proved stable enough to 
satisfy the demands even of the world’s 
leading snooker players.
Given the complications on the Arena’s 
construction site, Parsons also decided 
early on to assemble the complete 
system prior to delivery, in order to 
ensure everything worked as it should. 

That meant finding an additional 
50,000 square feet of warehouse space, 
in which we then had to create custom 
steelwork to support the roof as we 
removed enough pillars to give us the 
space we needed to assemble all of the 
seating units,” Parsons recalls. “Quite an 
exercise, but well worth it.
The comments from the crew at SSE 
Hydro led by Paul Duffy, the venue’s 
Technical Manager, reflect that. “We’ve 
used various systems of retractable 
seating for 25 years,” he explains. “There 
is a tendency for systems like this to 
rock – to have a wobble, particularly if 
the crowds get a bit rowdy. But with 
this system, when it’s out and fastened, 
there’s nothing – no play, no rocking 
action. We are very happy with it – in 
fact, we think Steeldeck has almost 
broken new ground with this system. 
A lot of our counterparts from other 
venues have come in to look at it, and 
they’re rather in awe of it...
A long time in the making, with the 
first plans to expand the familiar 
‘Armadillo’ Scottish Exhibition Centre 
building announced back in 2001 but 
construction on the new building not 
commencing until early 2011, SSE 
Hydro opened to great acclaim on 
30 September with a concert by local 
favourite Rod Stewart. It has quickly 
established itself as a new Clydeside 
landmark, aiming to play host to over 
140 events each year. 
For Steeldeck, the project has provided 
another layer of experience on which 
the company intends, as it always has 
done, to build in the future. “In this case 
we’ve learnt not just about creating 
new, reliable structures, as we do on 
every project we’re involved with, but 
also about doing so on a new scale, and 
about the particular logistical, planning 
and paperwork challenges of a project 
of this level,” Parsons notes.
“We were chosen for Glasgow because 
they trusted our ability to deliver these 
complex structures. We achieved exactly 
that to the satisfaction of all involved 
– and we now look forward to hearing 
from other venues of any scale with 
complex seating challenges that need the 
well thought out, precision engineered, 
reliable structural and seating solutions 
in which we specialise.” n
SSE Hydro, Britain’s largest 
arena, lit up at night.
Steeldeck retractable seating 
in the Lory Student Center at 
Colorado State University.

Glasgow’s new iconic 13,000 seat music arena.
Architect Foster & Partners
SteeldeckAd.indd   1
29/11/2013   09:37

As venues grapple with times 
of austerity, environmental 
concerns and increasing 
competition, they can look to a 
seat for all occasions.
s we find ourselves almost a decade 
and a half into a new millennium, our 
many esteemed, twentieth-century-built 
sports venues are having to grapple with 
the inevitable process of aging.
And with the ever increasing economic 
and environmental concerns, it’s never 
been more important to breathe life 
back into our clubs… in a way that 
alleviates both financial expense and, of 
course, carbon footprint. 
 Cue The BOX Seat 901. The ideal, 
cost-effective choice of stadium and 
arena seating. Simply refined with 
a single element construction, this 
all-polymer soft action ‘tip-up’ seat 
is crafted to maintain the correct 
ergonomic profile for superior lumbar 
support, and integrates into The BOX 
Seat product range as an entry-level 
solution. It offers everything you need 
as a venue and nothing that you don’t. 
Its upholstered counterpart, The BOX 
Seat 901 Padded Model, also provides a 
luxurious yet economical option for VIP 
or Member requirements.
The 901 is an absolute game-changer 
for venues looking to update their style 
for less, without compromising on 
quality or spectator comfort.
 Arenas and stadiums across all sporting genres are 
benefiting from the masterful design of the 901. Most 
recently, Ulster Rugby has revived a tired-looking home 
ground by choosing to install 9,000 BOX Seat 901s into new 
spectator stands at Ravenhill stadium. Phase One recently 
saw completion of the Aquinas and Memorial ends, whilst 
a second phase in the early part of next year will finish the 
overhaul of the main Grandstand. By utilising The BOX Seat, 
Ulster have been able to entirely refresh their image yet retain 
the authentic charm of a venue so richly steeped in history.
The 157-year-old hallowed ground of Lancashire County 
Cricket Club is another to have undertaken a contemporary 
rejuvenation with the 901 Model. Old Trafford can now reach 
a capacity of 65,000 for large-scale events in addition to the 
cricket programme, vastly boosting revenue opportunities 
for the club and bringing its facilities in-line with its status 
as one of the most significant English grounds of the 
present day. The 901 Padded Model was also the chosen 
seating solution for the recent redevelopment of the historic 
Members’ Pavilion at The Kia Oval. As Chief Executive 
Richard Gould put it, the renovation was to create a “front 
door which fully respects [The Oval’s] heritage and history, 
whilst also providing peerless facilities for its members 
and supporters”. 

 In golf, the model has been a welcome, cutting-edge solution to spectator 
seating at world-famous events, waving a cheerful goodbye to the former staid 
and exhausted temporary systems. The legendary courses at Wentworth (UK) and 
Augusta (USA) have brought their PGA tournaments to the forefront of the golfing 
industry, choosing the impeccable BOX Seat aesthetics to accentuate the environmental 
backdrop that’s typically such an important part of the sport. Royal Sydney Golf Club 
followed suit for this year’s Australian Open with the 901 in a smart-looking arctic grey.
 When Le Havre Football 
Club broke ground with their 
brand new stadium, their 
vision was to construct a 
venue that would remain 
true to their traditions as 
the oldest football team 
in France, but stand as a 
fresh, new ideal of football 
stadiums for the country. 
The BOX Seat 901 is used 
throughout – for both 
their fixed and retractable 
systems – alongside other 
BOX Seat VIP models, to 
harness their adoring crowd 
in unprecedented style 
and comfort. 

 Besides providing any venue with 
a dynamic look and state-of-the-art 
technological benefits, The BOX Seat offers 
vastly more sustainability than products 
that have gone before. Its polymer material 
is double the strength of its historical 
equivalents, making it substantially longer 
lasting. The clever geometry also maintains 
a strong UV advantage; the seat closes in 
line with the backrest, protecting it from 
harmful UV exposure and, therefore, the 
inevitable fading and discolouration to 
which many other products are susceptible. 
Each of these benefits reduces the necessity 
for replacements and, in turn, lowers 
production costs and emissions.
 The unique rail system allows for seats to 
be easily adjusted at any time with upgrades or 
the addition of accessories; should the venue 
wish to alter their look at any point in the 
future, they don’t have to incur the expense of 
an entirely new seating system.
As well as remaining an integral source of a 
community’s income, sporting venues provide the 
public with a very potent perception of culture and 
lifestyle. In a fast-paced society filled with high 
expectations, it’s become crucial for our stadiums 
and arenas to reflect the environment we wish to 
see in the cities that surround them. The BOX Seat 
901 is an unparalleled solution for facilities across 
the globe to carry out a premium overhaul on a 
low budget. As well as meeting the evolving needs 
of fans by providing them with a sophisticated 
space in which to enjoy an event, it is a powerful 
driver of revenue, providing an all-important 
cash-flow boost for venues that are so often at 
the very heart of our urban communities. 
The BOX Seat 901. Proof that first-class 
renovation doesn’t have to cost the earth.* n
The trademark compact design 
of The BOX Seat reduces materials, 
storage and transportation, whilst enhancing speed 
and ease of installation to minimise labour and energy 
inputs. From a revenue-generating perspective, this 
same trademark also enables the widest clear space (‘seatway’) 
between rows, halving the time taken for customers to reach 
vendor facilities and increasing the purchase of food and drink. 
It also accelerates access and egress from the venue, greatly 
enhancing crowd safety.
 Environmental sustainability has 
always been at the forefront of The 
BOX Seat design, as it’s meticulously 
crafted to reduce material and energy 
consumption. The patented seat tipping 
mechanism reduces the weight of the 
chair by over 2.5kg when compared to 
counterweight seat tipping systems. 
All components can be recycled or 
reused, reducing global footprint.
*For a simple guide to The BOX Seat specifications and pricing, try the new online configurator at 
Or for full details on The BOX Seat innovations, visit www.theboxseat.co.uk/innovations

World’s No.1 for 
Transform your Pitch from a
Cost Centre to a Profit Centre

ANZ Stadium:
listening to a vision  
of the future
n the thirteen short years since its 
inauguration as the main stadium for 
the Olympic Games 2000 in Sydney 
Australia, ANZ Stadium has gone 
through two major infrastructure 
changes. The first was structural and 
saw a major reconfiguration of the 
venue with retractable seating for 
7,000 people installed to each side 
of the rectangular field. Such work 
represents a major capital cost and 
since the Games ended ANZ Stadium 
has been an independently owned 
self-financing venue, so this was not 
a decision taken lightly. Nevertheless 
enabling cricket and Australian Rules 
football to be played there as well as 
both rugby codes and soccer has seen a 
positive impact on the revenue side. 
The second change was no less radical, 
yet as the stadium’s General Manager 
Simon Davies says, “We set ourselves 
the goal of achieving maximum impact 
at minimal cost.” The change was 
environmental, “We always strive to 
make the visitor experience as enjoyable 
as possible,” continues Davies.  

We had already made great strides in 
this direction with choice and quality 
in the food and beverages we offer, 
and back in 2009 we also added the 
southern hemisphere’s largest LED 
video screens in each corner of the 
stadium; a first for Australia. But 
now we wanted to raise the level of 
excitement; we wanted something 
that would make the experience 
truly immersive.
This immersive excitement was to come 
from an unexpected quarter. “Any 
well-run venue will seek to maximise 
utilisation and when you have exhausted 
the sporting potential you have to 
look at other mass spectator events, 
continues Davies. Stadiums frequently 
host big rock concerts, ANZ Stadium 
certainly does, and the sound systems 
these shows bring to our venues are 
really potent. But these are concert 
systems and come with the tour; the 
only time you see systems of this 
potency actually installed in stadia is 
for world-class events like the Olympics 
or the NFL Super Bowl, but this is only 
made affordable by the financial input 
from worldwide broadcasting. 

The thing is we have seen the positive 
effect such systems have on our 
audience; look at London last year, the 
impact of great audio for the opening 
ceremony was profound. But these 
systems are only ever temporary. So 
we asked ourselves, ‘Why can’t we do 
this at ANZ Stadium on a permanent 
basis, and can we achieve this in an 
affordable fashion?’ That’s the task 
we set ourselves and I believe we have 
achieved those goals on both counts.
Special sound,  
every event
Davies and the ANZ Stadium 
management team led by MD Daryl 
Kerry were fortunate in one respect: the 
man who designed the London Olympics 
sound system was Australian. “Scott 
Willsallen had cut his teeth working on 
the Sydney Olympics and had, over the 
years, worked with ANZ Stadium on the 
special events we staged here using the 
pre-existing sound system,” explains 
The management at ANZ Stadium in Sydney, Australia, identified concert quality 
audio as a way to raise the level of excitement for fans.
All images credit: Scott Willsallen

Davies. “That familiarity with the venue 
and the goals we had given ourselves 
allowed us to set a tough brief. 
Willsallen it seems was unperturbed. 

The main confine of this brief was to 
use pre-existing rigging points and all 
cable infrastructure from the old PA 
system.” The thinking being, as Davies 
so succinctly puts it, “I’d rather invest 
our money in the new system hardware 
than the infrastructure. Our customers 
don’t value the infrastructure, they take 
it for granted, but what they experience 
directly: sound, vision and comfort, all 
have great importance. Willsallen was 
engaged by the challenge immediately. 

In one sense that brief was restrictive, 
but it did mean that the money we 
saved on cabling and rigging, which 
when you consider a large 80,000 seat 
stadium, is a significant figure. So that 

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