The Armed Forces Classic once again took place at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany, and Colonnade was there to serve proudly.
Six years ago, ESPN began its initiative to engage more with the United States military service. In 2012 that manifested as the Armed Forces Classic—an NCAA basketball game played for the entertainment and benefit of military personnel and their families. That inaugural event was held at Germany’s Ramstein Air Base, one of the military’s busiest way stations between operations in the U.S. and the Middle East. Held at a different venue every year, the event returned to Ramstein in November in its fifth year.
In 2012, the inaugural Classic required a lot of logistical work beyond getting two basketball teams from the U.S. to Germany. That’s when ESPN sought the assistance of its longtime partner, Colonnade Group, and its Venu+ division, which designs and installs temporary seating solutions, innovative staging designs, and provides superior logistics management.
According to John Turner, Colonnade’s Chief Revenue Officer, unlike other companies that provide specialized services, ESPN could trust Colonnade with the complicated logistical tasks of coordinating television crews, vendor and sponsor delivery, seating design and installation, and lighting overseas. “We had a Polish company installing seating, an English company providing cameras, and a group from Iowa doing lighting,” said Turner. “It was an international effort.”
It would have been easier to move in ready-made bleachers and lay down a basketball court, but Venu+ is always on the lookout for ways to provide one-of-a-kind experiences, even if it requires more effort.
“How do you create the sense of space of an aircraft hanger and a basketball court?”
…asked Turner. The solution was dramatic: “We opened the bay doors and oriented the cameras so they would be facing the runway. This is a huge air base, and they didn’t stop operations while the game was going on. The is the first stop for wounded soldiers heading home from battle in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it’s the last stop before many troops head into battle. So we had a basketball game, but in the background you saw aircraft, vehicles, and soldiers going about their business.”
Last month, Colonnade returned to Ramstein to recreate the magic of five years ago. In the base’s gigantic hanger, before a capacity crowd of 3,096 soldiers and their families, Texas A&M faced off against West Virginia.
“It’s a good feeling to see soldiers and their families really enjoying themselves,” said Turner. “It’s a unique experience for the people on the base, and for Colonnade Group.”
Learn more about Colonnade’s Venu+ international and domestic capabilities at ColonnadeGroup.com.
To see how things happened five years ago, check out this video: