Tait’s ‘Manchester’ unites

By on March 5, 2014

Local stage company Tait has produced 19 of the top 20 highest grossing tours in the world. This stage is from a Justin Timberlake tour. Photo provided by Tait

Local stage company Tait has produced 19 of the top 20 highest grossing tours in the world. This stage is from a Justin Timberlake tour. Photo provided by Tait

Stage company expands into 265,000-sq.-ft. location dubbed ‘Manchester’

A visit last week to Tait, formerly known as Tait Towers, removed any doubt that this is easily one of the coolest companies in America’s coolest town, along with its Rock Lititz brethren Clair Global and Atomic.

What led to that conclusion?

A fleeting glimpse of a new section of office space in the former NTN-BCA ball bearings plant that is divided by a temporary wall.

Mind you, it’s no ordinary wall.

It’s actually made of “bricks” from Roger Waters’ 2010-13 tour of Pink Floyd’s 1979 album “The Wall.”

Nothing is quite ordinary at Tait, which has been a part of 19 of the 20 highest grossing tours of all time.

For instance, Britain’s Daily Call newspaper described Tait’s work on The Wall show as one of the “most ambitious and complex rock shows ever staged.”

Just a typical day for an anomalous company creating seemingly impossible projects like The Wall’s stage, which the Daily Call estimated to have cost $60 million.

The trip to Tait last month contrasted a bit from my first visit a decade ago to the busting-at-the-seams campus in Lititz.

Sure, work crews labored in the same departments, working on stage design and build, rigging, show control, and LED.

The scenic department continued to make visually stunning displays while employees in paint, welding, decking, and other sections buzzed about on set production needs.

Teams were designing, building and testing lighting towers, elevators and massive decking similar to the automated bridge Tait made for Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience tour.

Though it measured 111 feet wide, and nearly 20 feet high at its highest points, it also carried performers above the audience from one end of the arena to the other,.

Everyone of the nearly 400 employees has a part in making incons become more iconic be it the Rolling Stones, Katy Perry, Pink, Bon Jovi or Bruno Mars at stadium show, the Super Bowl, Olympics or Grammys.

What’s different 10 years later at Tait is its new production facility dubbed “Manchester.”

While its headquarters, design, and inventory remain at 9 Wynfield Drive, “the hive” of production has moved to Manchester.

The company recently placed its trademark brand on Manchester, the former NTN-BCA bearings plant at 401 W. Lincoln Ave.

Tait has added over 265,000 square feet at Manchester – equating to 65 percent more integrated space, said Adam Davis, a partner at Tait Towers.

Davis said the new facilities help “standardize the flow of production.”

“The new building is our staging facility while Wynfield is rigging, control, and LED and project management, research and development, while and both complexes have their own machine shop,” said Davis.

The move into the former bearings plant, which is about a quarter mile from its headquarters, allowed Tait to exit its 50,000-square-foot facility in the Manheim about five miles away.

It’s not surprising that Tait announced Tuesday that it’s “moving back into parts of Manheim it in the weeks to come.”

What’s also changed at Tait from decade ago is a concentrated focus as a rental business instead of a sales company. That meant thinking about products differently, Davis said

“Staging was first to get a reboot,” said Davis. “We’ve carried out years of R&D and solved every staging problem imaginable so we wanted to come up with one complete kit that was configurable to offer a variety of solutions for different projects.”

The scenic department has brought to life some of the most complex sets in the world in the safest manner possible, which is amazing considering its perilous designs featuring bridges, trapeze, elevators, and other devices that often shoot performers above the audience.

“You don’t see anything quite like it elsewhere and that’s what Tait’s success has always been,” Davis said.

All of which put a premium on space at it facilities at 9 Wynfield Drive.

Tait takes over the space at Manchester that was purchased by Redcay Industrial Development, for $5.1 million from NTN-BCA in Sept. 2012, according to newspaper reports. NTN closed for business in 2010.

The space is vital to Tait whose omnipresent designs are almost impossible to avoid, as Tyler Kicera, Tait creative director recently pointed out.

“The days of being on the outside looking in will be gone.,” she noted. “You will go to the show, theme park, architectural space and become a part of the experience.”

If you think that’s an overstatement, consider that Tait built U2’s roof-top set on Jimmy Fallon’s debut on the Tonight Show last month and it earned a Guinness World Record for its innovations at the Olympics.

Tait entered its seventh continent when it built a custom stage for Metallica’s Antarctic show in December and even went into space with NASA and U2 to design elements for a video shoot on the space shuttle Endeavour.

“Whether it’s the world’s largest video screen, a 40-foot revolving stage lift, cascading fountains of perfectly-warmed water features, high-tech automation, or an all-in-one truss, Tait can do it,” Davis said.

Amazingly, Tait’s not nearly peaked. It’s one-million-square-foot Rock Lititz campus project should break ground soon.

The monumental task – to construct space for Clair Global, Tait Towers and Atomic Design in a specialized industrial park on a 96-acre farm on Newport Road – is projected to create 500 new jobs over the next 15 years

“The Rock Lititz campus will be unlike any other facility in the world,” Davis said. “We’re creating a one-of-kind rehearsal experience that provides a full spectrum of services and amenities.

Patrick Burns is a staff writer for the Lititz Record Express. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at pburns.eph@lnpnews.com or at 721-4455.

by Patrick Burns

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