Steve Ward & Associates Blog

Bleachers and Platform Seating: Does it Have to Be All or Nothing?

[fa icon="calendar"] Sep 15, 2015 / by Geoff McElrath



During the summer of 2014, Steve Ward & Associates worked with the Greenback School in Greenback, TN, to create a seating solution for the school’s gym and auditorium. The proposed options needed to be not only cost-effective but serve the varied needs of these multi-use spaces while conserving square footage for maximum utility as well. Working alongside the architect overseeing this project, SWA was able to devise a plan that combined different types of seating to perfectly suit these areas without blowing apart the budget.

Not Your Grandpa’s Bleachers

To determine what kind of seating would work best for the Greenback School, it was important to consider the needs each location would serve for the staff and student population. The gym is home ground to the basketball team and also acts as a staging space for other school activities while the auditorium houses assemblies, performances, and other non-athletics events.



For the gym, a more traditional feeling was achieved with bench seating on telescopic platforms, so families and other attendees can cram up and enjoy the camaraderie of cheering on their team together. A VIP section, comprising two rows of orange premium fold-down chair backs, added a bright visual contrast that complemented the interior design of the building and delivered extra seating for special guests. The Model 4500 platform system, Infinity Bench Seat Modules, and Integra chairs were provided by Irwin Seating Company, and are all built to work together seamlessly. The entire structure telescopes out in mere minutes, requiring only a couple of trained operators, so set up is fast and easy. When a game is over, the platforms can be retracted in the same manner until the benches are stacked against the wall, allowing for effortless storage that saves floor space and protects the chairs and benches when not in use.


The auditorium also received telescopic platform seating, with black Integra chair backs, rather than fixed benches or fold out chairs that must be placed and re-stowed manually. Similar to the gym, this option enables quick set up with minimal effort, so events can begin and end promptly, and scheduling the space won’t be affected by the time it takes to break down or reconfigure a large number of individual seats. When not in use, the system can also be retracted so that the Integra chair backs are kept free of unnecessary wear and tear, and students have as much room as possible.

An Investment that Pays Back

In addition to being a thoroughly modern, usable, and budget-friendly option, these telescopic platform seating systems can potentially help Greenback School add profitability in the future. While the gym’s VIP section of premium chair backs upgraded the look and practical usage of the available accommodations without driving up cost excessively, they can also be held in future for season ticket customers. The money collected from ticket sales could help make back the cost of investment in only a couple of years. Following that, any additional money could go toward a school fund for other programs or to the basketball team’s travel and equipment expenses. Similarly, a portion of the auditorium seating can also be ticketed off for school plays and musical performances – even non-affiliated lectures or meetings that take place when classes aren’t in session -- adding yet more funding that can in turn be invested back into the school. 

Bench and platform seating doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing fix for any school. We worked within the parameters required by Greenback, the architect, and state building codes to win this bid and offered up adaptable, non-traditional solutions for the unique challenges posed by these multi-use spaces. Our team at Steve Ward & Associates has years of experience in consulting for projects that require professional, practical, and creative seating options that can be scaled to suit the myriad needs of educational institutions.

To learn more about our background in school construction and design, and view further examples of work, please visit our Products page.


Geoff McElrath

Written by Geoff McElrath