If you watched this year’s Super Bowl XLI on February 4th then you saw Tait Towers outwit the elements. Tait Towers built and installed a deployable roof and grid structure for the broadcast booth on field in Miami. Since the weather decided not to cooperate—it rained long and hard throughout the game—the structure kept the on-air talent as well as the crew, cameras, and lights all nice and dry. The structure also incorporated a rain gutter to channel the water off to the sides and away from the camera shots. The main reason for the gutter system is that a canopy roof normally is raised at the center of the canopy so that the water rolls off one way or the other. One of the things that drive production crews crazy is when viewers see sheets of water pouring off the roof. With the gutter system designed by Tait Towers the only thing that seen behind the talent was the constant rain.
The Tait structure was a 4,000lb, 48’x32’ unit that rose up 25’ holding the lighting grid and a roof to keep everybody dry. It was used during the pre-game broadcast, half time, and post-game coverage and had to deploy and retract in minutes.
“From the time the game clock goes to zero at the end of the half, we then had the first commercials to deploy everything for a 30-second spot that Jim Brown used to introduce Prince,” comments James “Winky” Fairorth, president of Tait Towers. “Then you immediately have to close it so that you are not blocking the view of Prince’s show.” Tait used a servo control system to sync their Zip Lifts at the corners of the unit to raise and lower the structure quickly and efficiently.
Tait started onsite set-up for the roof system on January 16th in Dolphin Stadium. This structure had to be engineered to take into account any weather issues that might arise. Winky points out, “At 25-mile-an-hour winds, the tarp had to come off the structure; at 30-mile-an-hour winds, the whole thing had to come down.” Fortunately for all involved rain was the only element they dealt with since the wind stayed calm. Once the stage was in place the lift mechanism was installed on the outside of the stage. The broadcast desk and the cameras move downstage to allow for the roof to close. “The structure was not allowed to block any seats, so when it lowered into its down position it created a perfect sightline,” says Winky. “It was down to the inch. In fact, we had to adapt to an issue onsite where we actually had to rebuild the four corners and drop it down an extra nine inches after we set it up for the first time; that is how critical the sightlines are for the game. You have to be able to see the sidelines from every seat.”
It took a few days afterwards for Winky to dry off. “The water was overwhelming,” laughs Winky. “It was the longest, most constant rain that I have ever worked in.” Aside from the rain, all the excitement stayed on the field and the Tait Towers structure worked flawlessly; the same could not be said for the Bears’ game plan.