The national conventions where the Democratic and Republicans officially nominated their presidential candidates for the 2008 election began on August 25th in Denver, CO. The Democrat National Convention (DNC) took place from August 25-28, with events occurring mainly at The Pepsi Center. The party’s nominee for President, Barack Obama, accepted the nomination on the 28th at nearby Invesco Field at Mile High.
Meanwhile, the Republican party was preparing for its convention in St. Paul, MN at the XCel Energy Center. That event began this past Monday, September 1 and will conclude tonight with a speech by presidential nominee, John McCain.
With thousands of people attending these events (and millions watching on television), the facilities in which these historic events are taking place needed to be in top shape. The management professionals who run The Pepsi Center, Invesco Field, and the XCel Energy Center began preparing way ahead of time.
In Denver, CO
Seven weeks prior to the start of the DNC, work began on transforming The Pepsi Center from a sports arena to a convention venue. The focal point of the convention hall was the podium, and the Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC) made available tours of the hall on a first-come, first-serve basis to Denver area residents and visitors. The tours also focused on attracting students to view the venue.
Meanwhile, the Denver 2008 Convention Host Committee hired a Disability Rights Coordinator in the planning of the DNC. David Kennedy, a disability rights activist, was chosen for the position. Kennedy played a major role in the renovation of the Denver Art Museum, serving as Manager of Special Projects for the architectural renovation. He was also involved with the implementation of ADA compliance internally and externally for the new extension of The Denver Art Museum.
In St. Paul, MN
In preparation for the Republican National Convention (RNC), management at the XCel Energy Center welcomed the Republican party to the venue on July 21st. Construction crews then began a six week process to transform the facility to house the convention.
Shortly before the convention kicked off on September 1st, TFM spoke to Jack Larson, vice president/general manager at the XCel Energy Center since 2001, about the monumental event coming to his facility:
TFM: What type of preparations have you and your staff needed to perform ahead of the RNC moving into the XCel Energy Center?
Larson: We turned the building over to the RNC on July 21st. Once we were awarded the event in the fall of 2006, we started the planning process right then and there. The Secret Service sent someone to start working here, and we’ve been meeting with them in planning the security aspect of the event since then.
The production people also started right after that time. We have been having a production meeting every day, Monday through Friday. [The meetings] include not just our internal people for the XCel Energy Center, but all the people involved in the production of the event, including security, IT, media representatives, and more.
But back to your original question… before [July] 21st, we needed to move almost all of our equipment that we wouldn’t be using for the event off-site. We were doing that the last couple of weeks before the 21st, so [the RNC] would have access to some empty rooms. For instance, [we emptied] our storage areas—those that hold basketball courts, ice decks, folding chairs, and bigger bulk items, so they could use those storage rooms. They’ve turned them into office areas for their production and other needs for the convention itself.
TFM: How many people are you expecting to move through the facility during the four days of the convention?
Larson: The actually capacity for the XCel Energy Center at this event will be 22,500. However, its is up to the RNC to decide who gets passes to get in and how many they give out.
TFM: During the convention, what role will your staff play in the events?
Larson: As far as guest services, we will have some more people than we normally use for a sellout Wild hockey game here. So we’re using about 150 guest services people, and then we’ll have all of our operations people on for maintenance and HVAC systems and things like that. For security, we’re working with the Secret Service and supplying them in the areas where they need our assistance. So, we’ve got a pretty heavy staff up and running and catering wise, we have our in-house caterers doing the bulk of the catering inside the building. Centerplate, our concessionaire, will also be doing a smaller scale of a concession menu for the event.
TFM: After the event, what role will your facilities staff take in the clean up? What measures will you need to take to return the facility to its previous state?
Larson: Once the event is over, the RNC will need to move their equipment and everything they have in here out. Then it’s up to us to get it refurbished to what it was before they arrived.
The first event [after the convention] will be on September 24th. It’s a Wild exhibition hockey game. The RNC has until September 17th to leave the facility. So we have basically one week after that to get the building ready. But, we’ll be doing a lot of our work during the move out of the RNC also. It’s a big project in a short amount of time, but we’ve been meeting on this for a while now and we’ve got a great plan together to get the building back up and running.