Following the order by Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez last week allowing entertainment venues to open, the Miami Beach Convention Center is ready to host events – with all appropriate safety measures, of course. Those measures have garnered the Convention Center accreditation by the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) and are now at the heart of the venue’s new marketing campaign.
Gimenez' September 17th executive order allowed movie theaters, concert houses, convention spaces, auditoriums, playhouses, bowling alleys, arcades, and indoor amusement facilities to operate at 50 percent capacity.
“That’s huge news for us,” Miami Beach Convention Center (MBCC) General Manager Freddie Peterson said while admitting, “It was a little bit unexpected.”
Unexpected, but the team at the Convention Center has been planning for this moment for months. An MBCC Recovery Task Force was formed to implement “fundamental practices and procedures” that adhere to public health recommendations including those from the City of Miami Beach, Miami-Dade County, State of Florida, CDC and WHO “while also incorporating venue industry best practices and recommendations” from Spectra Venue Management which manages the Convention Center and which employs Peterson, Sodexo-Centerplate which manages food service, Smart City Networks and Everlast Productions which handle technology, and 1st Class Valet.
The Convention Center has designated two Health Ambassadors from Spectra and Centerplate to work with clients to facilitate the event planning process, ensure local public health recommendations and venue protocol measures are followed, and provide “a central point of connection between clients, vendors, service providers, partners and public health official guidance.” The Ambassadors will also review floor plans, layouts, and pedestrian traffic flow for all events.”
Further measures include Convention Center staff participation in the “MB Standard” program, the City’s voluntary COVID testing, prevention and contact tracing program. “MBCC staff undergoes regular COVID-19 testing (every two weeks for onsite personnel, monthly for offsite personnel),” according to new marketing materials. “As a preventative measure staff also undergo daily temperature checks and health screenings upon arrival.”
New physical and digital, permanent and portable signage has been deployed throughout the Convention Center along with wall-mounted and portable hand sanitizer stations and touch-free and environmentally friendly restroom features.
Food and beverage safety measures are detailed in Sodexo and Centerplate’s “Together We Rise” program.
According to the Convention Center’s new materials, the GBAC accreditation is confirmation the venue “has implemented the most stringent protocols and staff training for cleaning, disinfection and infectious disease prevention.”
“On top of everything else [the accreditation] gives an additional level of comfort and confidence,” Peterson said. “It’s not just about our clients, it’s about the team. It’s about anybody that comes into the building.”
While the State continues to operate an alternative care facility in the Convention Center in the event local hospitals see a surge in cases, it has yet to see a single patient. A drive-thru and walk-up testing site is located outdoors on the west side.
The hospital beds are set up in the exhibit hall but Peterson said, “We have other areas, like the ballrooms, meeting rooms, etc.," that are completely separate.
Working through the Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association and the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Convention Center team is doing “sporadic tours of different areas of the venue both indoors and out.
With 1.4 million sq ft of space, there is plenty of room for social distancing while nine acres of green space, including the adjacent Collins Canal Park and Pride Park, provide additional safe spaces to gather.
Just as individuals and companies are learning new skills or repurposing their activities to participate in the new normal, Convention Centers are doing the same thing, Peterson said. One reinvention initiative at the Miami Beach Convention Center involves turning the Art Deco ballroom into studio space. “That allows us to venture into that whole theme of hybrid events, podcasts, webcasts, commercials,” providing a safe, healthy space for productions, Peterson said.
When COVID closures hit, the Convention Center was on track for a “breakout year,” Peterson said at the time. The cancellation of events, including this year’s Art Basel fair, is one factor weighing on the City’s budget. The developers of the Convention Center hotel also notified the City construction would be delayed as a result of the pandemic, another blow.
With a $620m investment in the Convention Center, Peterson said, “There’s very high expectations.” His team is "think[ing] differently and dynamically. We’re repurposing space, retooling everything on the business side. We’re leaving no stone unturned.”
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