American Seating Sits on the Competition

May 30, 2002
| By Katy Rent |
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GRAND RAPIDS — The Milwaukee Brewers' Miller Park has them, Detroit's new Comerica Park has them, Yankee Stadium has them, even the Metropolitan Opera House has them.

What is the hot commodity that seems to be a run-away trend and originates right here in Grand Rapids? Seats from American Seating.

The local company, which has been seating stadiums, classrooms, ballparks, lecture halls and various entertainment venues since 1890, is now sweeping the country and seating stadiums at a rapid pace.

Last year alone it provided seating to Cincinnati Bengals' fans at Paul Brown Stadium, and at Comerica Park, Houston's Enron Field, Pacific Bell in San Francisco and the Louisville Slugger Field for Louisville's minor league baseball team.

Since the beginning of 2001, the company has provided or will shortly provide stadium seats for Milwaukee Brewers' Miller Park, which opened about a month ago; Ohio State University; the Pittsburgh Steelers; Reliant Stadium in Houston, set to open in 2002; PGE Park in Portland, Ore., a minor league park; Coney Island Park; and the new softball complex at Brigham Young University.

While staying busy with current projects, American Seating also faces the challenges of following the current trends in stadium and ballpark seating today. "Historically, major league sports have large stadiums to house two sports," said Scott Kearney, vice president of sales and marketing for American Seating. "Now, many cities are building separate facilities for the two sports."

With the influx of new stadiums and ballparks, American Seating stands ready to seat them all — and with the reputation the company maintains, Kearney hopes to do just that. "I think that our reputation has gotten us a long way. We have been doing this since 1890 and we have sat most of the original stadiums that are now adding new facilities or reconstructing what is standing," he added.

He also believes the company's success is due in large part to the skilled and knowledgeable people who work for the seating manufacturer, as well as the talented sales force. He says this with the forewarning that such statements may sound a bit self-serving, but that he is proud to have been a part of this company for nearly two years.

Along with the trend of separate facilities for different sports, a second new trend comes in the form of a cosmetic difference, brought on, it seems, by a bit of nostalgia.

Many ballparks, including the new Miller Field in Milwaukee, are going back to a seating style that was popular a long time ago. Remember those old wood seats?

"The old chairs were made of cast iron and elm. This was a problem for two reasons: First, there were fire code restrictions and secondly, elm trees developed a disease and became extremely hard to find," explained Kearney.

American Seating has now developed a modern version of the elm chair, made of plastic. "They are made to emulate the old chairs. They are green with slat backs and curved tops designed specifically for the specific ballparks they will seat," said Kearney.

And yet a third trend puts American Seating into a league with which it is familiar, and the company welcomes the challenge.

Kearney said many minor league teams and colleges are beginning to emulate the major league ballparks and stadiums.

For example, one of American Seating's upcoming clients is Ohio State University. The school is constructing a new horseshoe-shaped stadium complete with club sections, suites and premium seats.

In fact, Kearney stated, "80 percent of the $187 million Ohio State is spending on the stadium construction will be funded by the sale of the box and club seating."

These trends, Kearney said, are what makes the market and what feeds the healthy competition the company faces both locally and nationally — and something American Seating will continue to sit on top of.

"All of the parks and stadiums we get involved in are looking for something a little different, and everyone wants a unique look," Kearney said.

"We are fortunate that we have the skill and labor to make every job we complete something unique to our company and something unique to that city and team." 

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