Inspired events begin with inspired venues. And increasingly, many clubs and resorts are finding that one of the most reliable sources of inspiration can come from creative use of outdoor tents, no matter what the occasion, or season.
Properties are finding outdoor tents to be a great way to consistently offer members and guests the enjoyment and ambiance of their uniquely scenic outdoor settings, while still maintaining all the conveniences, protection and assurances of an indoor space. Tents can also offer more flexible decorating possibilities that go far beyond traditional ballroom spaces, to give event planners more opportunities to personalize a party.
“The tent space is basically a blank canvas, and there are truly unlimited options for setting one up,” says Larry Yount, General Manager of Pine Island Country Club in Charlotte, N.C. “Having a tent expands our opportunities for attracting a multitude of events.”
|SUMMING IT UP
As that blank canvas, event tents offer the flexibility to be dressed up or down, to achieve distinctive looks for everything from a lavish wedding to a laid-back barbecue. As a result, these outdoor function spaces are proving to be an increasingly effective way to land and expand banquet business.
Finding the perfect place for a tent on the property will help to increase its popularity and marketability. “Placement of the tent is vitally important,” says Yount. “It should be an extension of the clubhouse. It should be convenient to parking areas, restrooms, scoreboards and food/beverage operations.”
Pine Island’s 40-by-60-feet event tent sits adjacent to the west end of the clubhouse on the Event Lawn. It is positioned so the sunset is a backdrop for the different events held at that time of day. The tent is also conveniently located close to the men’s and ladies’ lounge areas, which provides easy access to restrooms and dressing rooms.
Overlooking the 9th and 18th greens and located just a few yards from the scoreboard, the tent and Event Lawn were originally designed for golf outings. But the layout of the area has made it popular for weddings and private parties as well. “We have a beautiful spiral stone stairway leading down from our banquet area, with a landing just a few feet away from the entrance to the tent,” Yount described.
The tent is erected over a concrete pad, and is 17 feet high in the center, sloping down to 8 feet at the sides, which can be removed as needed. The function space has five chandeliers, each with individually controlled dimmer switches, so lighting options can be matched to the style of the event. The tent skeleton makes it easy to hang temporary accent lighting, hanging lanterns and other decorations.
Additionally, the space is fully loaded with electrical outlets to power the club’s POS system, equipment for DJs and bands, heaters, blenders for portable bars, and the like.
All of these features make for an extremely flexible event space. “There are truly unlimited options for setting it up,” says Yount.
Sit-down events are furnished with outdoor resin tables and chairs, and wedding ceremonies are set up theater-style. The club brings in bistro tables for receptions and mixers. For more formal events, the tent is typically decorated with arbors, trellises and screens, along with tulle, fabric and ribbon. Fine linens also help to dress up the space, while disposable tablecloths set the tone for more casual functions.
In its clubhouse, Stonebridge Country Club, in Goffstown, N.H., has a small private room that is limited to a capacity of 50 people, and a restaurant that can hold 90. Yet the club still has a booming business for larger events, thanks to its 80-by-40-foot outdoor tent, which can hold up to 200 people. In fact, about 95 percent of the banquets at the club utilize the tent. “Putting up a tent is a sure thing to increase revenue, if you do not have a big indoor function room,” says Jason Jozokos, General Manager.
Situated in an east-to-west position, to ensure a sunset view over the golf course, the tent overlooks the 8th and 9th holes. The venue is designed as a large outdoor ballroom space with a cathedral-style roof. It has carpeting and silver chiffon draped from the 25-foot ceiling.
Lighting is comprised of a long continuous strand of soft white lights on dimmers, complemented by corner accent lighting and lanterns. Soft low-voltage landscape lights and rope lighting outside the tent allow guests and members to enjoy the manicured grounds as well.
At Stonebridge, use of the tent breaks down to about 75% for golf tournaments, 20% for weddings and 5% for other events like birthday parties or club functions like luaus. “The setup of the tent changes constantly,” says Jozokos. “We have a full-time houseman on hand for tent setups. We give him the layout of the tent, and he makes it work.”
A makeshift kitchen with a six-foot grill is set up on an adjacent patio, to create a unique aesthetic element that is also convenient operationally. “The chefs can cook there while the guests roam around the grounds,” says Jozokos.
The tent is a big draw for events and gives the club a chance to highlight its surroundings. “It allows the guests to be with nature and the course, rather than being stuck inside,” says Jozokos.
The Great Outdoors
The Carriage House Tent at Heidel House Resort & Spa in Green Lake, Wis., was designed to highlight the lush foliage and wildflowers on the resort grounds. The 40-by-80-feet tent is surrounded by a canopy of trees and is adjacent to the resort’s gardens. It is also attached to the Carriage Patio, which is often utilized for wedding ceremonies before moving to the reception in the tent. “It is extremely convenient to have everything in one area, so guests don’t have to switch locations,” says Michelle Van Kirk, Marketing Manager. “The Carriage House is also nearby, for guests to access restrooms.”
The tent is set up on a permanent concrete pad and used from spring to winter. The removable sides offer the adaptability needed to achieve the intended look and feel of the event. “It is a white tent with the ability to open up as many side panels as an event needs, to highlight the beautiful surroundings or to create a more intimate setting with just a few entryways,” says Van Kirk.
While the resort uses heaters and ceiling fans, the removable sides also help control the climate within the tent. “When it’s hot, we’ll remove the sides, or do half and half. If it’s windy, we’ll keep the sides down in the direction the wind is coming from,” says Van Kirk.
Maintenance is critical to providing a safe and attractive outdoor tent space. Here’s how to keep a tent in tip-top shape:
During a daytime event, natural light flows through the tent when the sides are up. Additionally, there is overhead lighting on dimmers, and candles are often used to set the mood. Hosts can work with the resort’s A/V staff to add up-lighting for an additional charge.
The Carriage House Tent is used for everything from weddings and banquets to cookouts and picnics. It can seat 300 people theater-style, 200 people with banquet ovals, and 400 people for a standing reception. The club provides centerpieces to dress events up or down. “For a basic ‘dress-down’ event, we have two votive candles on the tables; for a wedding, we dress it up with a 12-inch mirror with candles,” says Van Kirk. “For cookouts and barbecues, we provide checkered tablecloths.”
The tent is a popular location for groups looking to host a nontraditional event in something more than a standard meeting room. “It’s all about the atmosphere, with the wooded area and natural colors. Many planners are looking for something different, and the tent provides that,” says Van Kirk.
The Rivermoor Pavilion at Scituate Country Club in Scituate, Mass., is a 40-by-80-feet seaside tent. Sitting on a hilltop, the Rivermoor Pavilion has panoramic views of the golf course, the pond, North River, Atlantic Ocean, flower gardens, a lush salt marsh and greenery galore. While the pavilion is popular for weddings, it is also used for cookouts after golf tournaments, political functions and member social events.
“Having a tent gives us the flexibility to hold different kinds of events we could not do with our function room,” says Donna Giannetti, Director of Sales.
The white tent features zip-down sides and clear cathedral windows. White tube lighting runs around the top perimeter, and lanterns hang from angle poles. Dinner events are set with round tables, with linens and white chairs. For more elegant events, the tent is decked out in colored linens, chair covers, centerpieces, up-lighting, additional plants, potted trees, flowers and draped fabric.
For more casual affairs, the tent is set up with red and white checkered linens on banquet tables, while lawn and beach chairs are arranged throughout the space. A grilling station is often set up next to the tent, with lemonade and iced tea stations and a steamed hot dog machine. The club has also set up volleyball and badminton nets, and a croquet course, on the lawn outside the tent.
Unpredictable New England weather is Scituate CC’s biggest tent-related challenge. Rented heaters are used in cooler months, and the tent sides can be zipped down if needed. In the summer, Atlantic Ocean breezes provide natural “air conditioning,” but the club uses large, standing floor fans as needed.
Successful tent operations start with attention to detail. Larry Yount, General Manager of Pine Island Country Club in Charlotte, N.C., provides these important tips about things that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Create an attractive space both inside and outside the tent. “The area around the tent should be landscaped and attractive, as guests will migrate outside the tent enclosure.”
Bring power into the tent. “Ensure that electrical/internet and phone connectivity is available to operate POS systems, and that the tent is incorporated into all club accounting and information processes.”
Actively market the space. “As with all club amenities, it’s important to promote and sell the tent. Use it as a focal point for separating your club from the competition for golf outings and weddings, and also when showing prospective members around.”