While volunteers worked feverishly behind him to set up 5,000 cots and provide each bed with blankets, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings stood on the bare concrete of an air-conditioned parking garage at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, addressing a throng of media about the city’s opening its arms as a mega-shelter for those able to leave the path of destruction along the Gulf Coast caused by Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm that made landfall last Friday night and has lingered in the coast area since then, dumping record amounts of rain throughout southeast Texas.
“We are getting ready to be the neighbors of south Texans that we know we can be,” the mayor said to begin his remarks on how thecity would prepare to accept thousands of displaced residents. That 5,000 number, the mayor admitted, could climb into the tens of thousands and cause other shelters in the area to be looked at for any overflow population.
But that is for a future day. This day was about Houston’s neighbors up I-45 in Dallas coming to the aid of a population that has experienced flooding never seen before. Houston, in fact, set daily record rainfall amounts on Saturday and Sunday and is expected to take on an amount of rain before the week is over that normally falls over the course of one year.
With search and rescue operations in full swing in Houston, nearby Dickinson and in many other cities, and with the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston already sitting at 4,500 residents and nearing its own 5,000 capacity, others are stepping up in the most humanitarian way.
Our job is to be ready when and if individuals need to come to the Dallas area to reboot their lives and get back on their feet,” Rawlings said. “My heart goes out to all the people impacted by this devastation.”
Rawlings said that he has been in contact with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner to assure his counterpart that Dallas is ready to help.
“Houston has a convention center, recreation centers, churches,” Rawlings said. “That area is still 6.5 million people, though. The numbers get pretty staggering.”Rawlings has also spoken with the mayors of Austin and Fort Worth and said that Austin has been told to prepare for up to 7,000 people.
Kay Bailey Hutchison becomes the fourth shelter to open in Dallas along with three recreation centers. Rawlings said that 47 local firefighters have been dispatched to south Texas to help in the rescue and have been manning some of the boats that have been so prevalent on television coverage.
“Wal-Mart is setting up a pharmacy for us here in the convention center and there will be a medical facility on the other side. We can triage if necessary and send individuals along to hospitals in the area,” he said.
Rawlings said that it is impossible to predict how many people will end up in Dallas.
“We will know more about that over the next few days,” he said. “Interstate 45 is flooded in Houston and it is still raining there. We don’t know when 45 will free up. They have 250 buses ready to move. It could be 48 hours before they can even begin moving people from there. We are preparing, though. We may have tens of thousands upon thousands upon thousands of individuals. If that happens we will be looking at other partners in the county to help.”
Rocky Vaz of the Dallas Office of Emergency Management said that preparations have been made for those bringing their pets.
“The SPCA is getting a base ready just like we’re getting a shelter ready,” he said. “This will likely be on the fourth floor of the old Reunion Arena parking garage.”
Rawlings said that the city and the venue are concerned on the short-term and being ready to immediately help people when they arrive. He added that his team will convene in a couple of weeks to look at any long-term decisions that need to be made.
“Our hope is to stage individuals as they arrive,” he said. “We might put them in one of the rec centers and move them here. Right now there are 200 empty beds between the three shelters.”
With many discussing whether a mandatory evacuation should have been made for the city of Houston, the mayor had his own opinion.
“Thank God there was not a lot of people on the roads when the floods hit,” he said. “There would likely be many more deaths than have occurred so far.”
As Tropical Storm Harvey continues to deluge the Texas Gulf Coast in history-making flooding, the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston is one of some 70 locations that have been set up in the county to serve as shelters for displaced residents.
“The George R. Brown has turned into an emergency shelter for the people from Hurricane Harvey and now Tropical Storm Harvey,” saidHolly Clapham, chief marketing officer for Houston First Corporation. “The Red Cross is running the human scale operation and we’re the facility part of it. We have updated our grbhouston.com website and will continue to update information from Red Cross and how people can help.”
Clapham said that people have been arriving at the venue in “every which way.”
“There are those that live in this area that are able to walk here,” she said. “At the very beginning, we received an a large number of our homeless population. There are police officers present checking for weapons as a precaution. Obviously, we have a mass of people who might be arriving. I want to emphasize that we are taking everyone. Mayor (Sylvester) Turner has stated that this is a welcoming city. We take all. There is no checking ID’s or driver’s license or any type of enforcement of political views.”
Clapham said that she is not aware at this point of events being impacted at the convention center. She added that she is not also aware of any displacements of people from previous events at the venue who flew in to the city but were not able to get out.
The venue’s staff has already begun working round-the-clock shifts and will do so as long as displaced residents are at the facility.
“The operations team was present the first night,” Clapham said. “No one expected it to be this bad, but they were already on hand and still on hand. This is not over.”
Indeed, according to short-term forecasts, the record-setting flooding is not even to the halfway point as the tropical storm stalled out once reaching land Friday night.
“It is hard to predict how long we will have people,” Clapham said. “The Red Cross and the Mayor make that decision. We are operating in partnership with the Red Cross on behalf of our boss Mayor Turner.”
Clapham is also unable to speculate on how many people the convention center will house at its largest number.
“At the beginning there were 350 or so people,” she said. “We’re not planning on any number because we just don’t know. Again, it’s the Red Cross that is able to communicate how much they are able to plan for. The donations are pouring in. The more donations, the more supplies, the more people you can safely accept.”
Clapham said that the greatest need right now is for diapers and formula, among other essentials.
“Long-term the Red Cross has a dedicated donations line for people devastated by, I guess, the largest natural disaster in American history,” she said.
For information on the George R. Brown Convention Center as an emergency center for Hurricane Harvey, items needed, and how to donate to the Red Cross, click here.
SMG, the venue management company that manages Van Andel Arena, DeVos Place®, and DeVos Performance Hall, is moving forward with staff realignment that is aimed to increase efficiency of their business functions. Coming off a banner year for Van Andel Arena, the company looked at how it could restructure departments to continue building on that momentum.
Continuing the commitment to safety and security, Director of Event Services Todd Johnson has transitioned into a new role as Director of Event Operations & Security. “Keeping a secure building has always been a top priority at front of mind for us,” said SMG Regional General Manager Richard MacKeigan. “Creating this position gives us another pillar for our venues to maintain a strong dedication to keeping a safe and secure environment for our staff, patrons, and vendors.”
“We are always looking at additional ways to enhance our security measures to create a safe and enjoyable guest experience,” added Johnson. “We will continue to look at what we are doing now and what we can do in the future to consistently be improving the steps we already have in place.”
SMG has seen staff changes and realignment in other departments as well. Chris Anderson was recently named as Chief Engineer for Van Andel Arena and DeVos Place.
The box office recently created a new Ticketing Coordinator position to add to their staff and welcomed Josh Zeigler into the position. The realignment in the box office will also include the management of group sales and suite/premium seat sales and rentals, which was previously a function of the marketing department.
Following the hiring of new Director of Marketing Hilarie Szarowicz last year, SMG’s marketing department has also welcomed new Marketing Manager Alison Goodyke and has transitioned Group Sales Manager Rebecca Chesnut into a new Promotions and Special Events Manager role and Marketing Assistant Mike Klompstra into a new Digital Marketing Coordinator role.
By Alexis Berggren
For those of us fortunate enough to have attended VenueConnect in Nashville, I hope you are still basking in the glow of new-found information, strengthened skills and a growing network of friends and colleagues. I encourage you to seize this time of momentum, while topics are fresh in your mind, and reach out to your colleagues close by to organize a Chapter Meeting.
From security practices to promoter insights and stakeholder relations, tap yourselves as speakers and deliver the messages locally to those that couldn’t attend. Use the VenueConnect topics as springboards for what will serve your community most effectively right now, and engage those in your area to speak to that subject matter. What better opportunity to take the knowledge and camaraderie gained in Nashville back to those at your buildings who couldn’t experience it for themselves? There really is no better time.
As we heard at VenueConnect, as our membership grows, so does the importance of engaging our IAVM membership body and especially those in the furthest reaches of our organizations. Chapter meetings are an incredibly effective means of building those connections and strengthening our industry.
As always, there are tools on the IAVM website to help you get started: http://www.iavm.org/regions/hosting-meeting.
Of course, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to your region leadership or any member of the Membership Committee for guidance.
If you are asking why all of this is important to me, let me tell you why.
I have had the pleasure of serving on the Membership Committee for several years, and now, as Chair, I look forward to our committee continuing to serve as an active voice of the membership in support of IAVM leadership and staff. We have an incredibly dedicated and smart group of volunteers that I’m proud to call my colleagues and friends, and I feel real energy around building and bringing forth new and innovative ways to engage and grow membership.
IAVM is in the midst of an exciting and critical time of change. We have seen new leadership and new industry programs emerge, and we’ve seen strategic new facility management networks come online. We’ve seen new partnerships form, major acquisitions of industry trades and organizations outside of IAVM now providing educational and networking opportunities.
These developments speak to a growing industry, both in opportunity but also complexity. I care about all of this, because in the midst of these changes, the words I keep hearing from my fellow association members are things like, “relevant,” “accessible,” “innovation” and “value.” One Member, One Vote was a step in the right direction. The new VenueConnect format was a step in the right direction. The important thing now is to keep taking steps forward.
The first IAVM event I attended was the International Crowd Management Conference in Philadelphia in 2006. My best friend had just been killed in a motorcycle accident no less than two weeks prior, and the last thing I wanted to do was be so far from home and attending lectures. I had no idea that ICMC would prove exactly where I needed to be, but it was. I learned, I networked, I engaged. I took so many notes my hand cramped during most sessions. They didn’t know it at the time, in fact I have never talked about it until now, but my colleagues and lecturers at ICMC in 2006 literally put me back together after I’d lost my friend. I didn’t just go home in one piece; I went home and thrived thanks in large part to IAVM.
So yeah, I care. I care because, very simply, I want to give back. I care because I have a passion for discovering what’s around the next corner for our industry. I care because of the great people I’ve met that have influenced not just my career but my path overall. I care because I think we can be even more creative, and even more innovative and even more collaborative in the future, on behalf of our great membership. And, for better or worse, and despite a few bumps and bruises along the way, I have literally grown up in this industry and admittedly still have a lot left to learn. I care because I am so grateful for the friends and mentors and opportunities that IAVM has provided. I simply can’t imagine where I’d be without it … and don’t care to.
Alexis Berggren is general manager of Old National Events Plaza in Evansville, Indiana.
Kentucky Venues, which includes the Kentucky Exposition Center and Kentucky International Convention Center, is cashing in today on the results of its long-term, comprehensive program to reduce energy usage at the two facilities – earning nearly $400,000 in commercial rebates from Louisville Gas and Electric Company and Kentucky Utilities Company.
“We appreciate LG&E and KU working closely with us to identify facility upgrades,” said Kentucky Venues CEO Jason Rittenberry. “Not only do these improvements play a critical role in helping us remain competitive and keeping our facilities desirable, but the rebate dollars we’ve earned as a result help to make them more affordable.”
The venues’ combined 2.1 million square-feet of event space, plus outdoor demonstration sites, hosts clients from around the world and about 300 events each year. They generate what a recent study estimated at $483 million in economic impact annually and some 1,600 full-time positions in the community.
To keep pace with its evolving industry, the Kentucky State Fair Board, which governs both facilities, initiated an Energy and Efficiency Management Program in 2010 to reduce energy usage at the two venues. This also meant making them more comfortable and customizable for clients and patrons.
Over the last six years, the two facilities underwent a series of improvements that started first at KEC with lighting upgrades and moved into installing variable frequency drives to operate existing equipment more efficiently.
Other improvements at KEC have included installing a 750-ton high-efficiency chiller, new high-efficiency equipment pumps, motors and boilers, automated controls, and equipment that regulates the facility’s energy usage during certain times of the day.
“In addition to having an impact for the venue, the overall impact of upgrades here have a positive impact for our community,” said Jeff Myers, LG&E and KU manager of Energy Efficiency Operations. “We appreciate being our customers’ energy partner to help them achieve their goals and meet their energy needs.”
The LG&E and KU Commercial Rebate Program was approved in 2008 to encourage qualified commercial customers to replace inefficient equipment with high-efficiency lighting, motors, pumps and air conditioning equipment, as well as customized facility improvements that reduce at least one kilowatt of peak energy usage.
To date, participating commercial customers have earned $12.6 million in rebates. The program is approved through 2018 and is offered to LG&E and KU commercial customers who contribute to the Demand Side Management program as part of their monthly bills.