By Diane M. Calabrese / Published November 2018
Texas has more stadiums than any other state. As home to 132 stadiums, the Lone Star State easily garners first place. California with 70 stadiums is a distant second.
According to Worldstadiums.com, there are 843 stadiums in the United States. Neither Alaska nor Vermont has a venue that fits the 10,000-seat capacity and defined-exterior threshold for a stadium.
Yet there are ballparks with bleachers and ancillaries, such as dugouts and restrooms, in all 50 states. Selling to stadiums and related locations presents significant opportunities for contractors, distributors, and manufacturers.
“I have cleaned quite a few different types of entertainment facilities, including high-school bleachers, university stadiums, and the Washington D.C. armory building, which holds concerts and sporting events,” says Henry Bockman, president of Commercial Restorations in Germantown, MD.
One of the biggest challenges in selling contracting services to stadiums is establishing a price that allows the contractor to do an excellent job and make a profit. There’s complexity in the equation of cost and results.
“Finding the purchasing agent and selling your service to him when bidding against companies that will do the job for half your price is part of the complexity,” explains Bockman. “I have seen prices as low as three to four cents a square foot for cleaning stadiums.”
The contactor must be ready to sell the quality of results as well as the cost. As for how a contractor connects with a chance to win a stadium contract, it varies.
“They usually find a couple of contractors,” says Bockman. Then, the purchasing agent asks the contractors to bid. They also may put out RFPs to find other contractors to bid on the job.
Seats, kitchens, exteriors, floors, restrooms—every part of a stadium needs to be cleaned at some point. Contractors must be certain they can manage a stadium project.
Some of the advisories about cleaning stadiums match those for other jobs—for example, having the necessary equipment and having the cash flow to wait, if necessary, for payment from a large company.
Bockman tells us there are several things a contractor must consider before committing to the stadium market. His advice is outlined in the next section.
“Before anyone considers ‘selling’ to stadiums, they need to consider these points:
“Do you have the capabilities to handle a large project and cover your expenses until you can get paid for the work?
“Do you have enough equipment and manpower to take on a project this size and get it completed in five to seven days?
“Will your equipment ‘fit’ inside the facility so you can get close enough to the job? Running 600 to 800 feet of high-pressure hose will drastically reduce your flow and pressure, especially if you are running hoses ‘up’ 300 feet.
“Does the facility have water supply hookups, and do they provide enough water volume?
“Does the facility have drains, and where do they run?
“Do the floor drains work, or are they clogged?
“Do you need to reclaim water?
“Do you have the manpower to quickly collect all the trash left behind from visitors before you start cleaning? The last university stadium job I did had 85 bags of trash and 450 pounds of sludge that needed to be removed.
“Do you have the stamina to walk up and down 200 feet of stairs while dragging hoses over bleachers, benches, and railings 50 times a day?”
Eight U.S. stadiums seat more than 100,000 people, according to Worldatlas.com. The biggest is Michi-gan Stadium in Ann Arbor.
Michigan Stadium illustrates the magnitude of the investment that goes into stadiums. The stadium was renovated in 2010 at a cost of $226 million. It had been built in 1926 and 1927 for $950,000.
A 2015 expansion of Kyle Field at Texas A&M in College Station, TX, cost $484 million. Kyle Field is the fourth largest stadium in the country.
Beaver Stadium in University Park, PA, where Penn State plays, and Ohio Stadium in Columbus, OH, where Ohio State plays, rank second and third in size, respectively. The ninth largest stadium in North America, the Estadio Azteca, is in Mexico City.
When negotiating prices with purchasing agents, or amplifying a bid with supporting documents, remember the investment that municipalities, states, and universities have made in stadiums. Quality cleaning results protect the investment. That’s something both purchasing agents and stadium owners understand well.
The last thing a spectator wants to do is pay a premium price for a seat and then sit or step on an unidentifiable substance. The same spectator aversion holds for identifiable substances.
Cleaning at stadiums protects far more than the investment in the structure and the comfort of the attendees. It also protects the stadium owner—to the extent that anything can—against risk.
Slips and falls can happen anywhere, but if a stadium ticket holder slips on a slimy floor or trips over a mound of chewing gum, it can become a problem, since it’s a litigious society.
Every surface in a stadium must be cleaned. It’s a big job, but contractors are in the game. They are using plenty of supplies from distributors and manufacturers to be there.
The Sunshine State was once the singular place for baseball’s spring training camps. Since 2010, Major League Baseball (MLB) has more or less divided the camps between Florida and Arizona.
Even so, there are plenty of opportunities in Florida, and some contractors add cleaning of training venues to their already extensive repertoire. John Cloud, the president of Gorilla Kleen in Sarasota, FL, is one of them.
Each year Cloud’s company cleans the spring training stadium of an MLB team. “We clean essentially every inch of the public areas of the stadium, including gum removal,” he explains.
Cloud says that his company was able to make the initial sale of service several years ago because it could demonstrate that it was large enough to get the job done and was well organized. That was just the beginning of a sustained process focused on excellent outcomes.
“We are always ready to respond to any issue they need solved,” explains Cloud. “I am available to them 24 hours a day if needed.”
And Cloud means 24 hours a day. “I can remember getting a text on a Sunday afternoon telling me that due to a lack of rain, they needed a ‘mid-season’ stadium bowl clean the following Thursday.”
Cloud gave a quick can-do reply. “I was able to text him a response at that very moment, assuring him that we would re-stack our schedule if necessary, but that we would handle it for him.”
Responsiveness is important to all customers. It’s a very crucial factor when working with stadium owners who have fixed game schedules and often unexpected needs for cleaning.
Working at the same venue across many years allows a contractor to become adept at providing excellent results and doing so in the most expeditious manner. Gains in efficiency can offset any need to increase pricing.
Stadium owners have exacting requirements. Any contractor aiming to provide cleaning services in that sphere must be ready to meet the requirements, explains Cloud.
A contractor must be able to demonstrate—on the first opportunity—that the end result of the cleaning will be everything the stadium owner expects. And expectations include those for the contractor while the job is in progress.
If a stadium owner establishes that a contractor cannot step on the grass, the stadium owner means—without exception—the contractor cannot step on the grass. Cloud’s team knows the importance of complying with every owner-established parameter.
No stepping on the grass is a good example of the inviolate conditions to which a contractor must adhere. Such a rule means that even putting a foot or feet on grass to take a photo would be a transgression, explains Cloud.
It’s really up to the contractor to evaluate the setting—all with the parameters set by the owner in hand. The contractor must be sure that nothing being done in the course of cleaning will have unexpected consequences.
For instance, says Cloud, know where the fire system is, how it operates, and whether it can be easily set off. A contractor must “be especially careful to protect every single component” of all critical systems. It takes time and a methodical approach to staging.
Stadium cleaning demands much from contractors. Contractors value distributors and manufacturers who can provide them with equipment and ancillaries that are best in the setting.
Cleaning stadiums is interesting and rewarding work. Often, a contractor actually has the opportunity to see the happy, cheering spectators in a venue that his team has cleaned.
Do be prepared to work to the details provided by the stadium owner, however.
An inviting stadium is a clean stadium. From that juncture, it’s up to the team—or other event—to ensure the spectators are glad they chose to attend.