Philadelphia, PA – The Pennsylvania Convention Center (PCC) had a big job on its hands when it was named the host of the Roman Catholic Church’s 2015 World Meeting of Families (WMOF), but it got a lot bigger when Pope Francis announced that he would make an appearance at the event.
The Vatican announced late last year that the pope would make the WMOF part of his U.S. tour, and that means the PCC will have to more than double the center’s recipe for success.
“I think we were expecting maybe 15,000 to 20,000 attendees (at the PCC) and another 2,000 at events around town in 2015. With the pope coming, we now expect anywhere from 350,000 to 500,000 in the city – at least,” said Lorenz Hassenstein, SMG’s general manager of the building.
The WMOF is officially known as the International Theological Pastoral Congress and World Meeting of Families – Philadelphia 2015. It doesn’t take place until September 22-27, and the exact date of Pope Francis’s visit has yet to be determined. But the expanse of the event and its many moving parts doesn’t give the PCC and the organizing committee time to waste. “We are a spoke in the wheel of this event, or maybe even the hub of the wheel,” Hassenstein told Trade Show Executive (TSE). “There are no fewer than a dozen subcommittees in place and already they are dealing with all aspects of WMOF and the papal visit.”
The organizing committee is, in fact, already busy. Hassenstein and his team have met with several subcommittees to discuss matters such as rigging, seating plans and IT services, which Hassenstein said would be upgraded before September if necessary.
The PCC has 679,000 square feet of prime exhibit space and 151,196 sf of meeting space. It is ranked 20th on the TSE World’s Top Convention Centers, and the WMOF will make use of the entire building. Space will be set aside for everything from registration to child-care rooms and a mini-museum. And with the pope now on the schedule, there is a need for private VIP rooms, and the media center will need to be expanded considerably. “They have already gone through the building and laid out whatever they need,” Hassenstein said.
And, there will be an exhibit hall. Not many details of the exhibits were available in the Winter, but exhibit sales were being handled by Talley Management. Talley is offering booth packages ranging from $3,000 to $5,000 with a fairly standard contract that includes requirements to work under the PCC’s recently revamped union rules.
Talley isn’t the only familiar name involved in WMOF. Talley selected Hargrove in February to act as the general contractor for the WMOF and the papal visit.
Hargrove, based in the nearby Washington, DC area, has a long history of designing and setting-up special events, particularly presidential inaugurations and the 2008 visit to the U.S. by Pope Benedict XIV. Hargrove will oversee the set-up of the registration desks and the public entryways, the hanging of the signage and the laying of the carpet that will be trod upon by the pope and several thousand members of his flock.
Pope Francis’s visit is making 2015 a busy and unforgettable year for the PCC team, but it is far more of a blessing than a curse. Hassenstein summed it up: “This is a great opportunity for the city and the center to shine. But we are really going to be tested.”
Reach Lorenz Hassenstein at (215) 418-4730 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Teresa Matozzo, WMOF exhibits and sponsorship manager, at (856) 423-7222, x281, or email@example.com; Hargrove CEO Tim McGill at (301) 306-9000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.