Fixed Seating vs. Telescoping Seating: How to Blend Them Best


In setting out to design any public assembly venue, there are a variety of seating options that could fit the space well. Each has unique benefits and should be matched to the venue's specific needs. By selecting the seating type and arrangement that works best for all the project stakeholders (building owner, audiences, performers, and operations staff), you can provide the ability to make every game, concert, play, or other event safe and comfortable for all involved. An early decision architects and designers must make is whether to use fixed seating, a telescopic seating system, or a combination of both.

Benefits of Fixed Seating

Fixed seating is a perfect choice for large performance or public assembly spaces where the intended use will be consistent. The architect or designer can create a space that meets all applicable safety codes while also providing guests with good sight lines to the event and the chair type and comfort expected for the type venue. Because the chairs are anchored to the building there is permanence to the design.

Fixed seating is operationally efficient and low maintenance.  There is no need to arrange the seating each time a new event is planned. The savings in labor hours can be significant over time. Fixed seating also typically offers more features and options, in a wider range of models. From ultra-comfortable power operated recliners found in state-of-the-art cinema facilities to space efficient sports seating, fixed seating offers it all.

Benefits of Telescopic Seating

Many of today’s venues benefit from the ability to be highly adaptable. Often, varied facility use requires audience seating to be arranged in different configurations or removed altogether. Being able to make these changes safely and efficiently means being able to accommodate more types of events their guests without unreasonable costs.

“Choosing telescopic seating fundamentally comes down to recovering floor space,” says Spence Benedict, Director of Sales for Irwin Seating. “Recovering floor space allows for operational flexibility while at the same time maintaining the comfort and superior sight lines associated with fixed seating.”

“For example,” says Spence, “we’ve installed telescopic seating for Opera Grand Rapids at the Betty Van Andel Opera Center in West Michigan. The solution they chose retracts against one wall of their rehearsal hall. When they want to have small intimate performances or bring in a school group to view a rehearsal, they can deploy a 200-chair seating unit in a matter of just a few minutes. By adding the telescopic seating system, they really expanded the event types they can host in the building while reducing the operational complexity and cost.”

How to Blend These Well

Another trend we are seeing is designing a space that utilizes a combination of fixed and telescopic seats. This allows owners to realize the unique benefits of both fixed seating and telescopic seating.
When we provided seating for the Dickie's Arena in Fort Worth, they needed options that were both flexible and convenient. This venue hosts events that range from the Hot Wheels Monster Truck rally to performances of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. No matter who the audience is, it is vital to give guests a comfortable seat in a setting that allows them access to the action.

“What we have done for some projects is a hybrid of fixed and telescopic,” says Spence. “For example, in many schools we see architects designing dual-purpose spaces. Often these are performing arts auditoriums that can be subdivided into smaller instructional/classroom spaces. Typically, fixed seating is used in the forward 'orchestra' area of the auditorium and then a retractable seating system is installed to provide the rear 'mezzanine' seating area. When full capacity is required for a large event, the telescopic seating is deployed; however, during the school day the telescopic seating system can be retracted, and partition walls can close to create separate instructional or rehearsal space.”

There are many other examples of blended installations in sports, performing arts, casino/entertainment, and more. Recently, facilities that are being designed specifically for e-sports are using a combination due to an increased awareness of the benefits of fixed and telescopic seating systems.

Irwin's Premium Telescopic Options

If you have a space that needs flexible, adaptable seating, we have many options that can help you accommodate guests for all of the types of events your facility expects to host. Some of our top models include:

Prestige Seating

These telescopic seats allow you to maximize patron comfort by using a conventional padded and upholstered auditorium chair on a telescopic platform while maintaining the ability to perform quick change-overs between events. Prestige seating is available in both forward-fold and nose-mount versions to accommodate a wide range of row rise dimensions. Paired with our VersaTract understructure and VersaDesk premium deck construction, it offers premium fit and finish, a safe and solid walking surface, and consistent reliable performance.

Integra Chair

The space-efficient Integra chair pairs sleek, modern design with high durability, which makes it an excellent choice for gymnasiums, arenas, and educational/arts facilities. This seat can be adapted to a range of needs, with options that include armrest cupholders, and the addition of the Scribe writing table. This seat is available in 15 standard colors to match the rest of your space and can be made either non-upholstered or with upholstered pads.

Infinity Seat Module

These bleacher-style seats offer superior comfort while allowing you to increase the capacity of your space. A waterfall front edge, minimum 16.75" seat height and generous 22" of foot space makes these seats a great option for spectator comfort. The enclosed back has a clean-sweep feature that saves you valuable time during clean up. Folding backrests are available, and these seats can be purchased in 15 colors. Custom end graphics let you add advertising or school mascots to the end of each row. These seats can be used on telescopic units or on concrete risers.

Wood Bleachers

Traditional wood bleachers offer a classic, nostalgic look and feel in any space. Edge-glued construction and well-spaced seat and riser board support make this a durable, dependable option. Polyurethane clear coat ensures that this will serve well for years. At the Shelbyville High School in Shelbyville, Indiana, an installation of Model 4500 telescopic bleachers allowed the school to have a versatile and attractive space for games, performances, and more. The bleachers store securely away when the floor is needed for other functions.

We've worked with facilities all over the country to help them create the seating arrangements that work best for them. Working to design the perfect, adaptable space? Get in touch.

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