The Rigging for 'WrestleMania 33:' A Closer Look

by Mike Wharton
in Features
Key components included the wrestling ring, audience lighting, entrance way, Globe, Free Fall towers, Roller Coaster and WrestleMania sign.
Key components included the wrestling ring, audience lighting, entrance way, Globe, Free Fall towers, Roller Coaster and WrestleMania sign.

Atlanta Rigging Systems Constructed a Technological Marvel

The word, “amazing,” is often overused when describing an accomplishment or event. It also has different connotations, in that in can be complimentary in one sense, or derogatory in another. Consider; “That was amazing!” Or, “I’m amazed that guy can find his own….[insert word].”

For the purposes of this article, all references are to the former statement. Atlanta Rigging Systems, founded in 1992, has become one of the leading rigging, automation, installation and sales companies in the world. Numerous awards and recognition from peers in the industry attest to the fact.

The Coaster and Globe take shape

Therefore, when company president Dave Gittens says WrestleMania is “consistently the biggest projects we do all year,” and that he is “amazed” at what the WWE production team and vendors accomplished, it warrants a closer look.

“It was a massive undertaking,” he says, “Something on this scale requires a unified rigging plan to get done in the compressed timeframe given.”

The main rigging components were the wrestling ring, audience lighting, the elaborate entranceway, the Globe, the Free Fall towers, the Roller Coaster and the WrestleMania sign. Atlanta Rigging supplied 10 trucks of motors, rigging and trussing, and provided and managed all the rigging components of the show.

There were a total of 315 points hung around the stadium on the different elements. The ring area alone had 154 points, including a 40-foot OD circle and video panels that covered the towers.

The amusement park set occupied a very small footprint on the terrace for the structure on its surface, hence the industrial shoring required beneath the plaza. Complicating the build further was the fact that, despite the reinforcements, no heavy lifting equipment could operate on the plaza.

The Globe

Stageco built towers for Atlanta Rigging to mount all of the different circle sizes, which Doug Frawley and Atomic would then skin. Atlanta Rigging flew two 50-foot circles and stacked them on top of the Stageco towers, who then had to continue building the rest of the rig to get it up to full height. “Once they put cross members in we could lift the two equator trusses into position,” says Gittens.

Atlanta Rigging also fabricated some specialty parts to add structural support that both tied the circles together and changed the direction of the truss in order to make the multiple components one piece.

“We used two 30, 40 and 50 foot OD circles each to make concentric rings for the spherical shape,” says Gittens.

Structural elements were craned into place.

These created two identical hemispheres, which the crew referred to as the top and bottom “hats.” Through a gap between the two 50-foot circles separating the top and bottom half of the globe equator, Stageco built cantilevers for the WrestleMania sign. The sign actually “floats” independently of the globe façade and pins into “arms” out rigged from the structure.

One of many challenges, notes Gittens, was the need to get the circles to be the right size so when the large Atomic 43-foot “pie” frames pieces were positioned to link up, they just cheeseboro onto the outside of the truss.

A crane flew and “landed” the pie pieces, created with pipe, onto the circle trusses.

“Considering the likelihood of how many places matching these pieces up in such a fashion could go wrong,” says Gittens as he shakes his head smiling, “I’m amazed they just fit.”

“The amount of internal structure beneath the skinned screens is so dense you almost cannot see through the globe,” adds Gittens.

Laughs Zak Keller, of Atomic, “Oh yeah, definitely. I had a crew of eight inside making attachments, and at times I would lose track of them as I could not see through all the aluminum and steel.”

The Roller Coaster

The overall footprint of the roller coaster was 154 feet long, 34 feet wide and 105 feet tall from the terrace level. It was built entirely with cranes parked inside and outside of the stadium.

“That alone made it an extremely challenging build,” says Gittens. “We built sections in the street and craned each piece into place. The loops and raceways needed to have all the lighting and cabling placed on the sections before they were set. This added to the difficulty of the build, because each piece had to be picked in a way that allowed it to be bolted once it got into position. The loops were placed on a 15-degree angle from the audience, so we had to figure out a way to transition the truss to get the angle. “

Atlanta Rigging fabricated over 130 custom pieces of truss between the Coaster and Globe and, overall, there were 548 pieces of truss used to construct the Coaster.

Stageco supplied the Free Fall towers, the wall of video portals lining the plaza, the ramp and the structure over the ring. Eight automated hoists from Atlanta Rigging raised Upstaging lighting pods up and down the 100-foot Stageco towers.

Clark Reader supplied engineering approval for the Globe, Roller Coaster and audience lighting. WrestleMania 33 marks Atlanta Rigging’s 11th year with WWE.

For more information about Atlanta Rigging Systems (ARS), visit www.atlantarigging.com.

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