Design Considerations for Bleachers

Grandstand and bleacher designs vary by location, so it is certainly accurate to say that there are bleacher designs for a variety of locations and/or purposes. From the large structures found at racetracks and major sports stadiums to the small tip and roll models used to cheer on the local little league team, grandstands and bleachers have taken spectator seating to a new level when it comes to watching a favorite past time. 

When planning for your space, there are a few areas to consider when selecting from the many options.

Maximizing Your Space 

Angle Frame Structures – the space underneath the seating is non-existent in that the framing and cross bracing required for this type of structure utilizes that space. Good designers are skilled at maximizing space in sites with tight space requirements, and will know how to make adjustments to meet the needs of each facility.


Beam and column type structure – uses footing with piers typically spaced on 18' centers (left to right on the structure) and 12'- 18' front to back of the structure. This spacing allows for the use of the space underneath the structure for restrooms and revenue generating opportunities for the facility such as concessions, vendor sales, and/or fan memorabilia.

Other times the piers/footings can be “mated” into the structure of the buildings below. This allows for the building to support the structure of the grandstand above without roof penetrations by encasing the piers within the walls for structural support. In this scenario, the architect and engineer of the design/build team will work closely with the grandstand engineer to determine the best way to support the loads of the grandstand.

Seating Capacity

As mentioned earlier, seating capacity for the grandstand/bleacher industry is typically identified by 18" per seat. This is an industry standard and not necessarily what customers may view as ideal. In chair seating with armrests, 20" per chair is typically used. In some states, for high school playoff games, 24" per bench seat is required for seat widths. It is recommended to check the local high school rules association for specific determination of required seat capacity.


“Sightline” is a term used in the seating industry to determine the spectator’s ability to see the field of play from their seat over the head of the spectator in the row in front of them. Sightlines can be enhanced through a steeper pitch of the seating rows, lowering the front row elevation, or increasing the distance of the focal point on the field from the actual seating rows. When selecting a bleacher or grandstand, take sightline into consideration when designing your space. Knowledge of the factors involved in sightline allows fans to have the ultimate experience and clear viewing at every venue.


LEED Environmental Stewardship and Recyclability

The LEED™ (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System promulgated by the U.S. Green Building Council is a voluntary, consensus-based national standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings. LEED provides a complete framework for assessing building performance and meeting sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality. LEED recognizes achievements and promotes expertise in green building through a comprehensive system offering project certification, professional accreditation, training, and practical resources. 


There are two categories of “LEED Green Building Rating System:”

Percent of post-consumer recycled content 

Percent of post-industrial (pre-consumer) recycled content

Be sure to let your manufacturer know if LEED certification is a goal. The method of extrusion, usage of pre- and post-consumer materials, and mixture of scrap vs. prime material can all help contribute to a facility’s LEED score.  For more information on LEED, visit this website.

Sources for this article can be found in Make A Stand™: A Practical Guide to Spectator Seating.

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