As seen in The Richmond Times Dispatch: http://www.richmond.com/business/local/article_2f3349bd-d179-5fdf-b616-0a5ed07640db.html
Trade Names: T&B Equipment installs bleachers at high-profile events
By JOAN TUPPONCE Special correspondent | Posted: Sunday, May 1, 2016 10:30 pm
T&B Equipment Co. Inc. will have a couple of busy months.
The Hanover County-based event services company will be working on a number of high-profile events this month, including the Kentucky Derby and the Indianapolis 500. In June, it will provide services for the U.S. Open men’s golf championship.
The company installs temporary bleachers, flooring, pedestrian bridges, camera towers and hospitality-related structures such as skyboxes, suites and on-site television studios at events across the country.
“We will do just about anything with scaffolding that we could possibly do,” said company owner Thomas B. “Berk” Ellis Jr. “We also do the signage on grandstands during golf tournaments as well as all the screenprinting for the events on the PGA tours.”
Some of the biggest golf events with which T&B Equipment is involved are the PGA Championship, Ryder Cup and U.S. Open. It works all the golfing events for NBC Sports.
Reg Jones, managing director of open championships for the United States Golf Association, said T&B Equipment has built structures at various golfing events since 1996.
“It takes a company that has the expertise and knows what it is doing to build on that surface and make it a safe environment for spectators,” said Jones, noting that the work has to be done on different elevations with hills and mounds.
“T&B has that dependability. The experience they have makes a big difference.”
T&B Equipment provides services at events throughout the continental U.S. and Hawaii, as well as in the Bahamas, Mexico and Canada.
Those events also have included the Daytona 500, the Barrett-Jackson collector car auctions across the country and some concert series for Live Nation in Chicago. It also installs flooring for tent companies throughout the nation.
Locally, the company has provided the seating in the end zones for the University of Richmond football team at E. Claiborne Robins Stadium and has worked with Sports Backers and the Richmond Flying Squirrels — a minor league baseball affiliate of the San Francisco Giants — at different functions.
It also installed the pedestrian bridges on the Virginia Commonwealth University campus in Richmond as well as the skyboxes along Broad Street for last September’s UCI Road World Championships.
The company’s revenue rose 10 percent last year compared with 2014.
“I will match that again this year,” said Ellis, noting that T&B Equipment generates about 80 percent of its revenue from PGA Tour events.
Ellis’ father, Thomas B. Ellis, founded T&B Equipment in 1976 after selling scaffolding for his brother, Lenny Ellis, who owned Able Equipment Co. in Hanover.
“My father was living in Greensboro, N.C., and working for Able when he landed a camera tower job for NBC Sports,” Berk Ellis said. “NBC Sports asked him to start a business and follow NBC Sports. That’s when he founded the company. We’ve held that NBC contract for 40 consecutive years.”
T&B Equipment moved to Hanover in 1980 when his father began installing bleachers for different golf tournaments. Berk took over the company in 2002, when his father died.
In addition to its headquarters in Hanover, the company has a small office in Orlando, Fla., with 10 employees, and a larger office in Phoenix with 47 employees.
“Phoenix is a year-round facility, and Orlando is more of a seasonal hub,” Ellis said. “This year, we have seen an uptick in business in Orlando. We’ve been doing a lot of work for Disney for the past 15 to 20 years at its sports facility in Orlando.”
The company owns all of its equipment. “We have upwards of 500 tractor-trailer truckloads of equipment around the country at any one time,” Ellis said. “For example, the U.S. Open takes about 75 truckloads of equipment.”
Each of T&B’s offices is stocked with inventory. It also has a satellite facility in Portland, Ore., so the company can ship equipment to international locations, he said.
The company’s largest job is creating the temporary bleachers and skyboxes for the 16th hole at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. It is the only hole on the PGA Tour that is completely surrounded by temporary seating structures, according to Ellis.
“It holds up to 30,000 people and that includes 270 skyboxes around the hole,” Ellis said. “It’s three stories tall on one side and two stories on the other.”
Logistics, including setup and takedown, are always a challenge. Setup for the U.S. Open starts seven to eight weeks ahead of the event, and it takes three to four weeks to dismantle the structures afterward.
“It’s always a battle to find good, quality labor to do that work and be on the road the way we are on the road,” Ellis said. “Last year, we built 20,000 seats and over 80 camera towers just for the U.S. Open.”
Tommy Roy, NBC Golf producer, works with T&B Equipment on 25 events each year.
“T&B, without question, is the most important, most reliable and longest-tenured vendor we have. They are critical to our success,” Roy said.
“They provide us with TV studios on the course where our announcers call the game that are soundproof and air-conditioned. They have been a godsend to our coverage. Berk is a rock star in this business. He does a heck of a job running his business.”