He stands behind every seat in house Stadium: Adjusting on the fly, Grant Wedding of Indiana has overseen the trickier-than-expected task of installing more than 69,000 seats at the Ravens' new home.

Stadium Watch

July 15, 1998|By Ryan Basen | Ryan Basen,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Unless you're in the seat construction business, you probably haven't heard of Grant Wedding. But if it weren't for him, fans wouldn't have anywhere to sit at the new Ravens stadium.

Wedding's company, Wedding Construction, is installing the 69,000-plus seats at Camden Yards. He and his workers have only a small number to go.

And it's no mistake to list Wedding among the workers.

"I'm a carpenter by trade, so I still get out there and work with my hands, too," he said.

After arriving at the stadium at 6 a.m., he works outside until 2: 30 p.m. He then returns to his office, where he performs administrative duties until 6 or 6: 30.

"It's very complicated to do this job," said Wedding, 57. "There are a lot of details involved with the seats. There were so many workers doing other jobs that got in our way, trying to move too quickly. They were all crammed in at the same time. They had to build this stadium very quickly."

Wedding Construction, based in Lowell, Ind., has been installing the seats since October.

The seats were made by American Seating Manufacturers of Grand Rapids, Mich., and come in four widths -- 19, 20, 21 and 22 inches. And, as it turns out, they come in greater numbers than scheduled.

Originally slated to hold 68,400 fans, the new stadium is now projected to seat 69,400. Wedding attributes the additional seats to many factors, including their different sizes.

When enough of the larger seats cannot fit into a certain section, more of the smaller seats are added. That resulted in about 1,000 more seats that were not in the original plans for the stadium.

"Our estimates often change," Wedding said. "You find new room for seats all the time. We have to downsize chairs, add new ones and make them fit."

The changing number of seats is not the only adjustment Wedding and his workers have faced. They often cross paths with laborers, painters and carpenters, and their work gets set back, occasionally forcing the removal of seats.

For example, when the light fixtures in one corner of the end zone were added, Wedding discovered that several seats would have to be ripped out because of their obstructed view of the field. He calls this kind of situation "the toughest part of my job."

You won't hear him complain, though. For Wedding, there is a strict bottom line: "They need the seats and the bathrooms [which he is also in charge of]," he said. "The seats have to be in, no excuses."

His company is also responsible for handing the Ravens a ticket chart, which he must alter nearly every day.

"This stadium is one of the most high-pressure jobs I've ever done," Wedding said. "There are so many details in this stadium, and they have to have it done so quickly. There's little room for error."

Wedding, a native of Lowell, has been in the business for 30 years.

"I've done stadiums like Soldier Field, the Superdome and Oriole Park at Camden Yards," Wedding said.

"I've also done arenas, classrooms and performing arts centers. I've seen a lot on this job."

Once all the seats are in place, Wedding Construction will inspect every seat in the stadium to ensure that it is safe and securely in place.

"It gets rough, going over each seat to make sure they're all right and ready," he said.

"I'm a fan myself. I'll be there for the opening game, and I want to make sure it looks good. It makes me feel good to do a stadium like this."

Pub Date: 7/15/98

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