This week, I’d like to take a little time to walk through the Coliseum’s rigging system. The old rigging system consisted of 17 line sets, each with 3 manila lines supporting a steel pipe batten. The rope lines were supported by 4 sets of rigging support beams that were suspended from the roof joist with steel strap hangers. The hangers were attached to the beams with ½” lag screws. The line sets terminated at a pin rail system on stage right and were counterweighted with sandbags.

Remember, the Coliseum was built in 1924 and it was made out of wood. After 94 years of Florida heat and humidity, “[Renovation] was basically a safety issue and to bring the rigging up to current standards,” said Lauren Kleinfeld, Manager, City of St. Petersburg, Coliseum and Sunken Gardens. The entire rigging system had to be removed and replaced. (I want to underscore that observations about the condition of the space do not imply neglect or lack of care – we all know what happens to wood and rope in this climate!)

The wooden rigging support beams that held up the original line sets were replaced with a roughly 43’ x 25’ steel rigging structure, which was attached to two wooden truss arch girders, one located downstage of the proscenium and one located upstage of the proscenium, directly over the center of the stage. (The girders run stage right to stage left, not upstage/downstage.) Did you catch that the proscenium arch is between those two girders? IA Stage’s Site Supervisor, Jay C. Hurt, confirmed that installation required the 6 steel I beams of the rigging structure that run upstage/downstage go through the front of the proscenium arch. IA Stage’s Project Manager, Shawn Briel, explained that arrangements were made to neatly open up the holes for the install and then to close them back up and paint the face of the proscenium arch after installation of the rigging structure was complete. The whole face of the proscenium arch had to be painted, Shawn said, “…because there was no way we were going to accurately match that decades old paint!”

Attached to the new rigging structure are 12 line sets, each with 4 shiny new 3/16” galvanized wire rope rigging lines supporting new schedule 40 pipe battens. Six of them are dead hung – meaning they don’t move up and down – and six of them are moveable. The moveable batten rigging lines terminate into a brand-new pin rail system complete with six brand-new hand winches. The Coliseum’s Facility Manager/Technical Director, Nick Mayer, said, “We are happy to be using the hand winches on the fly rail,” as they make quick work of raising and lowering the battens.

A new steel access ladder and steel swing gate rounded out reinforcements made to the Coliseum’s stage right fly gallery to accommodate the new rigging system. A full set of stage draperies consisting of new main drape, valance, and border; 2 sets of legs; and a rear traveler were the proverbial cherry on top.

And there you have it. Next week, to close out National Historic Preservation Month, I’ll focus on how we tackled reinforcing those wooden truss arch girders that hold up the Coliseum’s rigging structure.

Photo credit for the cool postcard that I used as the feature image for this blog post:
The Coliseum from across the Shuffleboard Courts, St. Petersburg, Fla. 1938. Hand-colored postcard. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. Accessed 17 May. 2019.<>.