Seven thousand pounds of steel are bolted together almost two stories high on center court of the Don Taft University Center in Fort Lauderdale, FL. The Grid rig is visually appealing with its crossed bars, 10 feet of space between each column and wrap-around electronic ribbon board — the crown jewel of its unique technical design features.
“No one has ever seen anything like this, you take one look at this, and you’re going what..,” said Blair Doolittle, who oversees Grid League logistics and build. “This is a professional sports rig.”
It started as merely an idea three months ago — a conversation between National Pro Grid League Founder and CEO Tony Budding and Swedish strength equipment company Eleiko. After being constructed in Brazil, the new Grid rig debuted in competition Friday as freshly drafted athletes broke it in with toes-to-bar, pull-ups, rope climbs, muscle-ups and wallballs.
“It’s good looking, totally exciting and engaging,” said Philadelphia Founders athlete Brendan Marolda. “You can see how the time is going, what the score is, how many reps are left. The display totally factored into our strategy.”
The six sets of motorized gymnastic rings are retractable, each using its own 280 amp battery and weighing about 20 lb, according to Steve Meyer, the build crew foreman. Each set of rings is secured by 3-ton winches, which can hoist up to 6,000 pounds.
“It’s very solid, very well engineered. The whole feature, the way it’s laying out, there’s nothing like it,” Doolittle said.
When Budding tasked Manager of Eleiko Sport Brazil Marcus Moraes with creating a customized rig for Grid, he knew it would be challenging. From the beginning, Moraes said he had three goals for the design:
- Six-hour limit each for setup and breakdown
- No floor damage or markings
- Spectator-friendly in that it allows views of the athletes from any angle
Budding gave them an aggressive timeline: one month to design and one month to create.
“In two weeks, we had five grid designs,” Moraes said. “We made two designs based on what Tony wanted and then we gave our product designers the freedom to design two or three other rigs. Our favorite ended up being the one we built.”
The first step for the design team was visualizing what the spectators would see. By mapping out where on the grid each exercise would be performed, Eleiko Sport’s work contributed to the refinement of the rules of Grid.
“We have a long history in working with professional sports,” said Eleiko Sport CEO Rickard Blomberg. “We’ve been involved in weightlifting since 1957 and powerlifting for several decades. When Tony came to us and asked us to be a part of making the rig and setting the standard for the sport, it was something that was very natural for us to do.”
Early on, Budding emphasized that the rig couldn’t be welded together or screwed into the floor. The League ultimately will have two Eleiko rigs travel across the country to the eight teams’ venues.
The 10-foot-long pull-up bars, which weigh 135 lb each, have barreled ends that widen outward from the center and give the structure more rigidity. That solved another goal of not having to use external counterbalancers. The pull-up bars, in addition to the 200-lb base plates on the floor, help distribute the weight so that when in use, the rig is under as little dynamic tension as possible.
“Because of all the complex structural components and engineering that’s gone into this, the No. 1 focus for us has been to produce something that is safe for the athletes,” Blomberg said.
D.C. Brawlers’ Alea Helmick said the rig provides great visibility for the athletes and fans, and she also cited the functionality.
“It’s so sleek,” Helmick said. “You can do so much from it. There’s wall-balls incorporated into it, rings, hanging ropes, pull-ups, and then the handstand push-up boards. There’s great visibility, even when you’re looking across to the other team. You can see which quadrant they’re in and what they’re doing. Visibility is important, especially when viewers tune in after a race begins.”
The second Eleiko rig, which is made of stainless steel, started its journey from Rio de Janeiro to Madison Square Garden in New York City for the season opener Aug. 19 featuring the New York Rhinos and the Los Angeles Reign. It is scheduled to arrive July 25, almost a month before the match.
“Eventually, teams will each have their own facilities and they can each have their own rig permanently installed,” Moraes said.
Not only will each Grid team have its own rig, but Eleiko plans to manufacture rigs suited for fitness facilities everywhere.“Eventually we hope to have universities, high schools and recreational leagues buying our equipment for their Grid facilities, Blomberg said. “People will begin to train for this sport specifically and they will want to learn the movements on the actual equipment being used.”X