Feature Article - September 2016
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Seeking Shelter

Innovations in Shade & Shelter Solutions

By Joe Bush


Sending a Message

Ashley Bullis, graphic designer and marketer for a Waterloo, Iowa-based provider of tents and shade solutions, brings back the good times with a story she likes to tell that shows how shade structures, with colors, logos and messaging, can protect from the sun as well as guide people at public recreational spaces.

"Imagine being at a baseball game," she said. "It is the dead of summer, it's hot, and the sun is beating down onto the concrete. You enter the stadium and make your way to the shaded bleachers to find a seat. You glance down at the field and notice your favorite baseball team under the protection and shade of a dugout cover, which is custom-made to read 'Wildcats.'

"The man next to you slurps down a beverage and clinks his ice around at the bottom of the cup. You look around to find the concession area, and spot large, personalized umbrellas that read 'ICE COLD' and 'HOT DOGS.' You make your way in the direction of the concessions. When you arrive, you make your purchase and find a spot in a shaded concession area to sit and enjoy your ballpark frank. Afterwards, you return to your shady spot on the bleachers and enjoy a perfect ballgame.

"Making your facilities comfortable for your customers and staff will not only make the experience more enjoyable, but will keep them coming back time and time again, boosting sales, fun and word-of-mouth that your facility is worth the visit."

Bullis said, don't forget that protection and signage and comfort aren't all the benefits of a well planned and executed shade structure system. She said shade is a great revenue booster for aquatic facilities, park shelter and concessions, amusements and carnival industries as well as professional and non-professional sporting events, hotels and restaurants, and many other public events and places. Advertising revenue is also an option with the variety of colors and logo capabilities.

"Shade increases the length of stay for patrons, which is great for business," she said. "When shade is available for patrons, they are more likely to attend and sometimes even host events of their own at those facilities."

From Then to Now

Making your facilities comfortable for your customers and staff will not only make the experience more enjoyable, but will keep them coming back time and time again.

Another Holland, Mich.-based manufacturer of both hard and soft top shade structures has more than 50 years in the business, and most of those years has offered roofed buildings. When it developed the first tubular bolt-together steel frame with concealed bolts in the industry, its shade division was born. Senior Designer Herb Hoster said the industry has evolved in the materials it uses and the needs it fills.

"Shelter construction was initially done using wood as the primary material due to numerous reasons, like cost, availability of both skilled craftsmen and materials, and the prevailing design ethic," Hoster said. "Our company, being a steel fabricator, began marketing steel-framed shelters and found a small but growing market as parks evolved from smaller single purpose to larger broad use facilities.

"The trend today is toward custom designs, with larger multipurpose structures becoming a part of more parks. The clearest trends of the past decade have been the demand for arced and curvilinear designs in shelters."

Just as the latest in manufacturing of shades includes ease of removal for bad weather (high winds, snow loads and freezing), ease of installation has become an important selling point for shelters. Marketing Specialist Jennifer Graves said her company sends a complete bolt-together building package with detailed installation instructions to go with support from the company's engineering department.

"We procure all framing and roofing materials to reduce coordination and to move your project into manufacturing more quickly," she said. "Once they arrive on site, the shelters bolt together quickly and do not require specialized contractors, field welding or painting."

Like most top manufacturers' products, the company's steel features powder coating for protection from UV rays, salt, humidity and rust, and sends touch-up paint in case of scratching during installation or later from vandalism or accidents.