Houston hosted the Final Four and the March Madness Music Festival over the weekend. This citywide party included top musical guests including Maroon 5, Flo Rida and Twenty One Pilots.

Entertainment structural engineers may not be on stage during the show, but they still play an important role at the event, designing temporary stages and structures that give musicians the setting for an exhilarating performance.

We design these temporary structures all the time. The March Madness Music Festivals in Houston, Arlington and Atlanta were just a few. Chances are, your favorite musical act has played on a stage we designed. Blake Shelton? Usher? Red Hot Chili Peppers? Yes. Yes. And yes. Did you catch The Passion Live on Fox with Tyler Perry and Trisha Yearwood? Yes, we designed that too.

This year, we designed March Madness Music Festival’s three major stages. Two 40 ft x 40 ft roofs covered the Tailgate Stage and a 60 ft x 52 ft roof covered the main stage, showcasing the musical talent. Forty ft tall or more, these stages support lights, speakers and larger than life video screens.

Temporary structures, specifically roof systems, are unique in that they are built within a week, support performers and sets, and are then dismantled and loaded onto a truck. The truck travels to the next site and the process begins anew. The components must be easily assembled and portable, and should be designed by structural engineers – the same people who design your offices, apartment complexes, grocery stores, etc. to keep you safe. Instead of using shear walls and heavy steel connections for stability, our engineers design for guy wires connected to concrete blocks, and aluminum and steel trusses connected by bolts. Entertainment structures are unique and require a specialized structural engineer.

A premium music experience is the goal, but event safety is the most important aspect of the show.

Design of these structures still follows local building code guidelines. We design for all weather. When the event experiences gale force winds, predetermined before the event and during design, vigilant show staff are instructed to remove scrim (banners, advertisements, tarps used to hide structure) for audience and performer safety. Performers and audience members are removed from the stage area when threatening winds are seen on radar. A premium music experience is the goal, but event safety is the most important aspect of the show.

Design of the structure is important, but passionate clients and vigilant venue owners are just as critical. Working with clients who appreciate the importance of venue safety and understand what their structures can do is as rewarding as a successful show.

Entertainment structures have very specific requirements, but the end goal is the same for all structures we design. Listen to the owners and producers. They know what’s realistic and what’s a show killer. We’re here to work together to make it happen.

Next time you go to a concert, check out the structure that supports the speakers and flashing lights. Or don’t. If we do our job well, all you’ll remember is the music and the fun you had.

Schaefer’s dedicated entertainment division was developed in 2002 when a group of structural engineers with an entrepreneurial spirit wanted to design projects with adrenaline rush. Fourteen years later, the division has grown to a dozen specialized engineers, with the support of the entire office. They’re required to defy the odds, to analyze and produce the extraordinary.

See what it was like to have tickets to 2017’s event.

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