Can Your Event Venue Handle The Load? Get The Load Rating

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load ratingIt’s been a long time (1939, in fact) since Mickey Rooney stood up in the movie Babes in Arms and told his gang of pals, “Let’s put on a show! My dad’s got a barn….”

That show (and others) that Mickey, Judy Garland and their buddies threw together in a matter of days looked great on the movie screen—so great, in fact, that MGM repeated the formula in Strike Up the Band, Babes on Broadway, and Girl Crazy. In real life, however, such extravagant productions mounted in “my dad’s barn” would most likely have ended in disaster.

What’s the catch?

For our purposes, let’s skip over the fact that no one can really write, cast, rehearse, and mount a musical in the time the scripts claimed. Instead, we’ll go right to the issue that anyone would face in an untried venue: The structure of the building may not be equipped to hold the weight of scenery and lights.

If you’re looking to turn your church into a production venue, considering a big musical in your school’s cafetorium, or truly converting a barn into a summer theatre, take these steps before you begin to plan your show:

  1. Get the drawings. Your first stop needs to be at the office of the person who has the building’s structural drawings.
  2. Get an expert. Have a skilled professional look at these drawings and determine what parts of the structure may be able to handle a load, and what the maximum weight of the load can be. This is called the load rating, the amount of weight the building’s roof structure was meant to handle when it was built. Exceeding the load rating can bring the structure down on your head.
  3. If there are no drawings, you need a consultant who can examine the building’s structure and determine its ability to handle the additional load you have in mind.
  4. Once you have a load rating, respect it. Don’t plan a larger production than your building can handle. You’re hanging weight over people’s heads, and no shimmering star drop or batten of moving lights will be worth the consequences of a structural failure.
  5. If you’ve got to have more, hire a rigging professional. You may not have the load rating to hang big set pieces, but there may be other ways to achieve the effect you want without putting anyone in danger. A rigging professional can help you come up with creative solutions.

At J. R. Clancy, we can help you by recommending a rigging pro in your area, or by working with you to increase your capacity for larger productions. Give us a call at (315) 441-3440, or use our contact form.

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