Christie Lites Reports Strong Chicago Office
Partnerships with NFL Draft, Electric Forest Festival, Major corporate events keep North American rental network busy.
At the mid-year mark, Christie Lites reports a busy and successful 2015 for its new Chicago rental office, which officially opened in January. The full-service, 50,000 square foot warehouse in the suburb of Woodridge, Illinois, marks number 13 for this North American stage lighting and rigging rental company.
Said Christie Lites CEO Huntly Christie, “I have always considered Chicago the sister city to my home town of Toronto. We both enjoy great history, architecture, water, food, sport and wonderful people. Christie Lites is pleased to complete this sibling connection with the opening of our new warehouse in Woodridge. We can now provide local service and support in the home of the largest convention centre in North America.”
But it’s not just about products in the warehouse - it’s about people and partnerships that enhance this new location’s success.
“The calendar has been active primarily with corporate events,” said Christie Lites Operations Manager Eric Eaton, citing the city’s large convention centres and the A-List of Fortune 1000 companies. Highlights include the 2015 NFL Draft, several booths for the North American Auto Show and a very large corporate event at McCormick Place. A handful of tours such as the electronic band Keys N Crates and the popular Electric Forest Festival sprinkled through the calendar kept the warehouse bustling with business.
Eaton, who joined Christie Lites after 16 years at Upstaging, appreciates Christie Lites’ model of teamwork across all locations. “The teamwork between the offices is great. We have the support of all of the Account Reps across the country, which I find unique,” he said. “All shows come through Chicago at some point, so we can support the smaller as well as larger shows, and if I send out a show from here, I know my clients will be supported when it comes through their towns. It all comes down to servicing the client, no matter where they are.”
Clients have expressed their satisfaction with the Chicago office. About a recent event for one of the world’s largest corporations, Fabian Yeager of Yeager Design said, “The Christie Lites partnership has been paramount to our continued success in many projects over the years, and it was great to have the support of the newly-opened Chicago shop.”
The Chicago shop provided seven semi-trucks packed end to end with lighting gear and truss for the Electric Forest Festival, June 25-28 in Rothbury, Michigan. Production Designer Travis Shirley designed the Main Stage and Sherwood Court Stages as well as other areas, working with his longtime Christie Lites account rep Robert Roth.
Said Robert Roth, “We’ve done this festival since its inception in 2008. Both stages are significant in size. I had a crew of seven plus myself and my senior project manager Bobby Braccia on this.”
Roth’s relationship with Travis Shirley began at Christie Lites with a 30 Seconds to Mars show, followed by multiple Enrique Iglesias tours, Lollapalooza, and Keith Urban. Shirley focuses on production design and creative direction for concerts and touring, TV, high profile gatherings and fashion shows, and Roth works with him as much as possible from the small gigs to the massive festivals.
“My close working relationship with Travis Shirley produces the best overall results for the customer,” Roth said. “He is the designer, and I support him in realising his vision. He shares with me a brief of what the design hopes to accomplish, and I assist by using the versatile inventory of CL products. This brings the job in on budget for Travis while providing the impact he desires.”
Longtime partnerships played a role in another large event, the 2015 NFL Draft broadcast. TV lighting designer and Director of Photography Michael Franks has designed the NFL Draft event for 19 years. He chooses to work with rental rep Chris McMeen, who joined Christie Lites three years ago. “I’ve worked with Chris McMeen when he was with other rental shops over the years. We have a great working relationship.”
Christie Lites has worked with the 2015 NFL Draft broadcast event for the previous two years in New York City. This year it made its Windy City debut April 30-May 2, broadcast over ESPN and the NFL Network at Roosevelt University’s Auditorium Theater.
The NFL Draft was a complex, multi-faceted production, Franks said. It ranged from live segments in the ESPN outdoor stage in the Fanzone and with players walking the red carpet, to the filmed and TV broadcasts. ”I designed the lighting for the NFL, ESPN and also the NFL Network, so it was three clients, basically. I used not only theatrical gear, but also moving lights and TV/film gear. Chris has been able to meld all that together to make it work. Getting the gear is just one aspect. It’s more than the equipment. It couldn’t happen without the support of a good shop. Chris takes a hands-on approach - he visits the venue, he checks on how it’s going, so that’s why I like working with him.”
The challenges of taking a massive event to a different venue with many ‘unknowns’ to factor into the budget is always a concern, Franks said. “Even though the NFL is a huge organisation they are always concerned with cost and keeping it under budget. Chris and Christie Lites worked with me in terms of making it cost effective.”
Franks had production help from John Trowbridge of The Wolf Productions, who supervised the prep work, cable order, the installation and all the logistics with Christie Lites for the three to four semi trucks of equipment.
John Trowbridge said, “I’ve worked with Christie Lites since Chris McMeen joined them. Chris and I go way back. Everyone at Christie Lites’ Chicago shop was helpful and with Chris leading the way, it was great.”
The new shop follows the same consistent set-up template as the rest of the Christie facilities. The design allows space for efficient equipment testing and maintenance, as well as dedicated show prep bays and ample trailer loading and parking. The location handles high volume with speed and efficiency by using the most up-to-date automated equipment storage and processing systems for which Christie warehouses are well known throughout the industry.
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