A temporary air conditioning system was used to keep country fans cool in the tents at the traveling George Strait Country Music Tour.

When the nine-city, George Strait Country Music Tour took to the road this summer, it was like a small town on the march. Not only was there a megaconcert starring George Strait, Tim McGraw, and Kenny Chesney, but the concertgoers could spend six hours before the show at a Country and Western fair held outside the concert hall.

Arriving well before curtain time, George Strait fans were invited to visit larger tents sponsored by companies including Nokia, Chevrolet, Jack Daniels, and Doral Cigarettes for a marketing extravaganza. In each hospitality tent, fans could play games, see exhibits, sample products, and socialize.

Rising from the arena parking lot, a village of tents, some covering more than 10,000 sq ft, housed the major exhibitors in "Straitland." Around the giant temporary structures were smaller vendors selling everything from food to T-shirts. "It was colorful, lively, and a lot of fun," said Roland Reesby, Munters Moisture Control Services (MCS) western regional manager. Munters provides temporary air-conditioning equipment and services to events such as the "Straitland" festival. "Folks came to have a good time and we were there to make sure they were comfortable."

Making Tents Comfortable

That's no small problem for the exhibitors, since their tents enclose vast areas and are set up in the summer sun on hot parking-area tarmacs.

"The exhibitors spend a lot of money to interest the music crowd in their products," said Reesby. "And one way to get a fan's attention is to provide a comfortable environment where he or she can relax while waiting to get into the concert. On the other hand, the exhibitor has a complete disaster on his hands, if people show up and it's 100 degrees in the tent!"

On this summer concert tour, which visited seven Southern cities, the probability of hot weather was high. However, more than high outside temperatures must be considered when engineering an a/c system, according to Craig Ferrell, Munters sales manager for Special Event Services.

"We consider the size of the tent, the number of people likely to be inside, whether they'll be sitting or moving about, heat from the lighting system, the amount of infiltrating outside air, and the probable weather conditions when we design a temporary air conditioning system," said Ferrell. "Any of these factors can impact the capacity requirements and equipment configuration of the system we design."

According to Ferrell, Munters can handle tents ranging in size from 500 sq ft to 100,000 sq ft. "We're aiming at the tent market in the special events business," said Ferrell. "We design equipment to meet the unique requirements of that business and we provide a national service organization to support our equipment."

Smaller Footprint Fits Tight Spaces

"The new 'Special Event DX Units' that Munters leases are 20-ton air conditioners that fit into the wall of a commercial tent," said Reesby. "They are painted white and require no duct work, making them completely unobtrusive." Reesby points out that most air conditioners are built on a wide footprint to spread their weight over the roof support structure. Munters' new units are built to sit on ground where the weight can be concentrated.

"This makes them vertical, compact units needing little room outside the tent for setup," said Reesby. "This is a real advantage, when many temporary structures are erected close together, like at 'Straitland."

The Munters units are also unique in that they are thermostatically controlled for temperature changes. If the outside temperature drops unexpectedly, the Munters units automatically generate heat to meet the weather change.

Adaptability A Plus

For the "Straitland" project, Munters had two fleets of equipment on the road. "We'd pull into town on a Thursday night to set up for a Saturday show. Another Munters team would arrive on Friday night in a nearby city and set up for the Sunday show," Ferrell said. "Our equipment configuration would be varied for the needs of the location.

"For example, we might need six DX units for a tent in Buffalo, while the next week eight for a tent in Houston," Ferrell added. "The large Munters fleet allows for flexibility in the planning. This gets the job done to spec, but does not force a "one-size-fits-all" approach on the customer." At the Straitland setup, the goal was to keep the temperature at 74°F inside the tent.

"Those were big tents," recalls Reesby. "They were a 'clear span' with high ceiling and a lot of open areas. In some cases, they were put up over entire trees! Each set up was different and we had to be ready to accommodate changes when we arrived at the site."

Munters makes certain that changes are possible by assigning a full-time project technician to each venue. "We stay with the job during the setup and throughout the event. Should adjustments be needed, we are there to make them. Should emergency service be required, we are on-site working with the customer and can react immediately," said Reesby.

Reesby says that air conditioning contractors don't get a second chance in the special events business. "Things have to be 100 percent when the event occurs," says Reesby. "We have to set up, do the job right, and look good the first time. There's just no doing it over in the events business."