The Oktoberfest construction site – Bavaria’s biggest reoccurring building project

It is the biggest folk festival in the world. The Munich Oktoberfest is also the biggest construction site in Bavaria reoccurring every year. While the festival itself lasts only 16 days, the Oktoberfest construction on Munich’s Theresienwiese takes up more than 70 days. During this time several thousand people conduct a mammoth project, even Albert Einstein was once among the workers.

1. Mega-event in Bavarian
2. Building Tents for the masses
3. An amusement park for two weeks – in two weeks
4. Project management is key to the Oktoberfest construction works
5. Teardown – the other big Oktoberfest construction
6. Is the effort worth it?

1. Mega-event in Bavarian

More than 600 vendors have to set up their businesses during the Oktoberfest construction phase. In addition, infrastructure for almost 7 million annual visitors is required. Such are bathrooms, walkways, mobile phone services, heat, and electrical energy. To take some load of the giant project in 2004 police and action forces moved into a permanent building on the edge of the fairground. With the sheer masses of people and alcohol consumed they have special requirements for their facilities. In 2015 the Oktoberfest will already be celebrated for the 182nd time. While many things changed, it is still located on the same spot as almost 200 years ago. The first fixed date is the traditional tapping on the first Saturday of the Oktoberfest, or “Wiesn” how the locals call it. By that time all of the festivals has to be operational.

Oktoberfest Main EntranceOktoberfest Main Entrance

2. Building Tents for the masses

While the Theresienwiese is generally a public meadow in the heart of Munich, it becomes a closed construction site in the midst of July. In order to create the 14 major and 15 minor beer tents in only ten weeks time, everything has to work hand in hand. Most subcontractors working on the Oktoberfest construction site are in charge for many years, knowing the processes and possible obstacles. Although the biggest tent can serve over 8.000 thirsty clients at once, all the halls are completely built out of wood. To support the load every tent also gets a concrete grounding, which is redone every year again. Hence the total weight of every hall is around 630 tons – without any people in it. Due to strict German building- and security prescriptions many aspects of the tents are regulated. Starting with a security training for the workers to fire protection and maximum load guidelines the requirements to the Oktoberfest construction site and the objects are at least as tight as for a regular building.

Festival HallA major festival hall

3. An amusement park for two weeks – in two weeks

The top priority on the Oktoberfest construction site has big tents, of course. Some of the 34 ha for the Fest is also used for thrilling rides and exciting shows. Roller coasters, free fall towers but also mary go rounds are available. So the carneys have two to five weeks left for setting up their shows and rides. Some of which come exclusively to the Wiesn. One of them is the tower slide Toboggan, a traditional ride that is represented on the Oktoberfest since 1906. Major attractions like the looping roller coaster “Olympia Looping” weight itself 850 tons and need about 600 KW of electrical power input (300 KW for lighting, 300 KW for operation).

Olympia LoopingThe five loops of the Olympia Looping

4. Project management is key to the Oktoberfest construction works

The Oktoberfest uses up great capacities of project management. Consequently, the management team contains several people. Most of them work full time around the year at the festival. A key to the success of the short construction phase is experience and just in time delivery. The experienced constructors know the building ground like the back of their hand, which helps to organize the Oktoberfest construction project. Process improvements during the last couple of years also include shipping in containers and the extensive use of modules. While the biggest attractions start earliest in building up, services providers like municipal utilities can start on working on power and water supply. Since during the Oktoberfest construction several thousand people work on the festival, the management team even organized a great canteen for the workers. In stark contrast to the Wiesn, prices are here very moderate and range around 1,80€ for a beer (more than 10€ on the Oktoberfest).

Oktoberfest Construction SiteThe Oktoberfest construction site

5. Teardown – the other big Oktoberfest construction

After the last beer is drunk it is time for the teardown of the folk fest. Most of the parts are reused and stored like a giant Lego set in storehouses around Munich. They are waiting for their mission in the next year. In comparison, the building up, the teardown requires about half the time (approximately five weeks) but the same number of workers. Following the packing up and storing the remainders of the big party, the city demands from the landlords to give back the parcels of land in the conditions they got it 17 weeks before.

OktoberfestThe Oktoberfest (after opening)

6. Is the effort worth it?

In total there are 3.000 workers building up 600 locations in 10 weeks for 7 million people for 16 days. Several million Euros spend for two weeks. The effort seems huge for such a comparatively short period. There is however great fun for young and old people from Munich and their guests from all around the world. Furthermore, many carneys need this late opportunity to finish their respective financial years with a tiny surplus. The hosts as well are able to create a profit in their bank accounts, despite the unusual high fixed costs. All in all, Oktoberfest is a traditional product that becomes so successful that it gets copied all around the world.

Oktoberfest Construction EntranceEntrance to the Oktoberfest construction site

Author: Bastian Burger

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