Event planning is a complex, challenging thing, no matter what the event. But when sports are involved, planning an event takes on a whole new level of specialization. Sports events require all the same elements as many other events - shelter, food, waste disposal, places to sit and places to give awards or make presentations - but in many cases, sports events also require planners to rent equipment specifically for the sport as well.
Since most of us don't have hundreds of tables, chairs and garbage cans lying around, partnering with an equipment rental company is usually a necessity for any event. But what's the best way to choose that rental partner? And what's the best equipment to rent? With a huge variety of equipment rental companies out there, along with a dizzying array of rental choices and new sustainable products coming out all the time, a sports event planner could easily become overwhelmed. But if you ask the experts, they'll tell you it's all about the relationship. Find a partner you can count on for the best service and products year after year, and your equipment rental headaches will be over.
Covering All the Bases
Anytime you bring together hundreds of people, whether there's a sports event, a graduation or a wedding, there are some basic logistical needs that need to be met, and that's where your rental partner comes in.
The American Rental Association (ARA), the international trade association for the equipment rental industry, has created a certification process to make the rental partner selection easier.
"The Certified Event Rental Professional (CERP) program is a certification that party and event rental employees can obtain. There are different educational modules that they must complete, along with writing an essay and taking a proctored exam," says Tracy Johannsen, public relations & advertising manager, ARA. "We do encourage rental customers to search for a CERP graduate, but they don't exist for every market, so although it's a nice thing to look for, a consumer shouldn't base their decision to rent solely on whether or not there is a CERP graduate.
The CERP program includes a Foundations of the Party and Event Rental Industry course as well as two specializations from a selection of 14 in-depth courses on topics from decor to warehouse management. In addition,students earn points based on industry experience, which they can gain by attending educational conferences, earning industry honors and awards, and publishing original material on industry issues.
Whether your rental partner is CERP certified or not, experience is always a serious consideration when choosing a rental partner. It's easy to be tempted to make this decision based solely on cost, but when you consider the life of your event, more than just this year's budget, going with an experienced partner with whom you can establish a relationship will make equipment rental easier not just this year, but over the long haul as well.
"We're willing to invest extra service because we want to be the company that does your event for the next 20 years," says Rich Benninger, vice president of sales and marketing, Clear Span Tents, Inc. "We know from experience that getting as many things as you can from one source is always helpful. We directly provide tables, chairs,fencing and tents, and when it's needed, we can also partner out for whatever else our clients need, such as air conditioning, power for main tents, etc. It gives event directors fewer points of contact if we manage the whole process."
Benninger also recommends going with a company that has experience in rental equipment for sports events, and, if possible, a company that has experience, or at least a passion for, your particular sport.
"Cole Freestone runs our company, and we do a lot of sports events, like road and cycling races because he's really involved in those sports," says Benninger. "When you have someone who knows the sport, a person who competes, there are things those people can say - did you think of this, let's do this for you because it will work better - you get advice and consult as well as equipment."
Every event has to meet certain basic needs for its competitors and athletes, but some sports also require specific equipment that has to come from the experts.
Dragon boating is a prime example. One of the world's fastest growing water sports, dragon boating requires the use of very specific types of boats, not to mention a course and officials who know the sport and how to officiate it properly. That's why, in some cases, the best thing an event planner can do is partner with a one-stop shop of event planning, an experienced partner who will take care of everything from sports equipment to staff.
"We have a series of services and really it depends on how much you would like to be involved or not involved in logistics, " says Aaron Soroka, chief operating officer, Great White North (GWN). "We can supply services from A to Z, or, if you just need boat rentals, we can do that too. But if you want to start a festival in a community but don't know where to begin, we can bring in staff, install a course, supply timing equipment, boats, docks."
The benefit of going with a company like GWN is that you get a full time, fully operational partner that focuses on planning and executing events in your sport.
For some events, such as running and cycling races, timing is a huge consideration. Smaller events can get away with the super budget-friendly timing option of having volunteers record times with paper and pencil, but for any race that hopes to draw highly competitive athletes, a more sophisticated timing system is critical. And that's another occasion when you have to seek out an expert, like the timing aficionados at Eternal Timing.
"We deal with the whole timing aspect of marathons, triathlons, 10Ks, a variety of events," says Devin Hyfield, Eternal Timing. "We're also a sister company to TriCalifornia Events, a company that produces six or seven major triathlons each year."
Eternal Timing offers timing contracting services to 30-40 events annually, a service that entails working with race directors in pre-planning, establishing the event's scoring statistical base, and getting ready for race day. Race weekend services include registration and, of course, timing the actual event. Using Eternal Timing's system, races can offer perks like real-time information for announcers, so that the emcee can announce racers' stats and names as they cross the finish line.
Perhaps the most intense moment after the finish line of a race is the following hours when race participants are eager to find out their official race times. Eternal Timing takes care of that part as well. Using their own online system, Eternal Timing sets up an interface for each event that allows directors and athletes to sign in and access the information they need just hours following the event.
Tables and chairs are pretty basic, but there are new sustainable rental options coming out all the time. Here are a few of the latest and greatest to consider for your next event:
Eco-friendly Trailer-stage Offered by Stage-Tech: Suitable for outdoor events, the 32-by-24-by-3-foot high trailer-stage from Stage-Tech uses solar and hybrid technology and can cut diesel fuel consumption by 90 percent. The unit features a low-consumption, super-efficient sound system, LED lighting and a seamless backup generator that runs on natural gas.
Reverse Vending: Tomra North America has partnered with Vending Innovations to offer "reverse vending" machines, allowing guests to recycle their plastic, aluminum and glass beverage containers. Guests can insert their empty bottles into the units, which resemble traditional beverage vending machines and can be customized with graphics specific to the event.