Stuttgart.. The heart of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix is transported by dumper trucks: 60 tons of crushed tiles then have to be spread evenly in the Porsche Arena so that the world’s top tennis players have firm ground under their feet. Ever since the start of April, Stuttgart’s NeckarPark has been a hive of activity and though the crushed tiles for the clay courts represents a big chunk, it is by far not everything the armada of trucks deliver. The long list ranges from cables and spotlights to a concert piano and sports cars and there is even a XXL screen and a complete restaurant.
“The trick is to synchronise the all various areas with each other,” says Vjeko Curic, the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix organising team’s head of Sales and Operations. It therefore means he is in charge of much of the work involved in putting everything in place. Time is at a premium. Two weeks are not long to transform two large halls – where otherwise Nickelback rocks the foundations or where the German singer Helene Fischer “makes” young men get silly ideas – into a tennis temple. The work involves about 50 companies.
One is CONICA AG from Schaffhausen. The Swiss company developed the clay court for the 2009 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix and has continued to optimise it ever since. Only 2.5 thick, the base layer is made of crushed tiles and is laid completely even and extremely hard-wearing like a gigantic pizza by special machine. In a final step finely crushed brick is spread over the top and the court is ready for play after only 24 hours. Three courts are laid in this way year for year at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, the only indoor clay court tournament on the whole WTA Tour and one that gives the players the optimal preparation for the French Open – the Grand Slam highlight in Paris.
Three things are needed above all to get visitors and players in the mood: technical equipment, technical equipment and finally technical equipment. The centrepiece of the tennis show in the Porsche Arena is the LED screen, a 21 x 6.6 metre and five ton monster. It is controlled by an enormous mixing console and, at the press of a button, generates a wonderful atmosphere in the hall. Over 100 additional spotlights above centre court create a light show that would make every discotheque owner green with envy. The smooth energy and data transfer is guaranteed by over three kilometres of cable.
About 700 guests are pampered daily in the VIP hospitality area
During the later stages of the countdown for the tennis week full of highlights, the halls look like a anthill after it has been struck by lightning. Whilst specialists connect and plug in the 20 tons of technical equipment, the foyer of the Porsche Arena is the scene of much hammering, sticking, assembling and installing. It is where the VIP Lounge is created – a restaurant with a buffet where Porsche Gastronomie’s chefs can be watched at work and where about 700 guests are pampered daily with specialities from all over the world. Delivered fresh every day during the week are, amongst other delicacies, 10,000 sushi, 2,800 oysters, 1,250 kilograms of meat, 1,850 kilograms of asparagus and 550 kilograms of strawberries.
In the Schleyer Halle, booths for about 20 exhibitors simultaneously sprout up around the freshly-laid practice court in the Sport and Lifestyle Village. A restaurant where visitors can watch the stars practicing is also built under the stands. To meet the tight schedule, one cog has to fit into the other. Additionally 10,000 square metres of carpet is laid, about 40 Porsche vehicles and museum pieces have to be put into position and 250 signs have to be put up so that visitors can find their way around the event site at ease. Vjeko Curic and his team keep a beady eye on everything and jot down ideas for improvements in the coming year. After all, according to Vjeko Curic, Porsche wants, “the special quality of the brand to be also highlighted at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix.”
In this case, the best comes at the end: the tennis stars fly in on 19 and 20 April and cover the final kilometres on the road in a Porsche with a chauffeur. The dumper trucks are gone by the time they arrive in the Porsche Arena.