Putting Vast Square Footage to Use, Convention Centers Transform During COVID-19

TSE STAFF
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NEW YORK — The New York International Auto Show was scheduled to open at the Jacob K. Javits Center this week, but instead, the convention center is serving as a field hospital with 4,000 beds to treat COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients. The Javits Center is only one example of the many convention centers that have been called upon to serve their communities in a critical capacity during the COVID-19 outbreak.

While data on the exact number of hospital beds at convention centers or patients treated at venues worldwide is not currently available, TSE reports the number is already in the thousands — from the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans with 1,000 beds currently and capacity for 1,000 more if needed to the ExCel Center in London with 500 beds currently and capacity for up to 4,000.

“Converting a venue into a hospital or a similar facility is ‘unchartered territory’ for most venues, but UFI members around the world are supporting the fight against COVID-19 by making their venues available to serve as medical centers and hospitals during this pandemic,” said UFI Managing Director/CEO Kai Hattendorf. “In normal times, our industry is building and running the market places and the meeting places for the world. Right now, instead we are building and sharing the healing places for people around the world.”

Convention centers managed by ASM Global, including venues like McCormick Place in Chicago, the Los Angeles Convention Center, and the TCF Center in Detroit, are being re-purposed into alternate care facilities with plans for more 10,000 beds, said Bob McClintock, Executive Vice President Convention Centers, ASM Global.

“We are honored and humbled that the ASM Global network of venues has been activated to support their respective local communities,” McClintock said. “We will continue to utilize every local and international resource to support this unprecedented situation, which has affected us all on so many levels.”

Approximately 56 of the 92 venues managed by ASM Global have been called into service or are under consideration for a variety of critical functions — ranging from alternate care for supporting patients and command centers, to emergency operations and shelter and feeding for at-risk populations, McClintock told TSE.

“We worked with the American Red Cross to create the Mega-Shelter Planning Guide (https://www.iavm.org/mega-shelter-planning-guide) in 2010 to deal with weather events, but this is the first time that convention centers have been widely used as hospitals or to serve other federal, state or local government and public health agencies,” said Brad Mayne, President and CEO of the International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM).

Reach Alan Steel at (212) 216-2000 or asteel@javitscenter.com; Kai Hattendorf at (33) 1 46 39 75 00 or kh@ufi.org; Brad Mayne at (972) 538-1021 or brad.mayne@iavm.org, Tim Hemphill at (504) 582-3023  or themphill@mccno.com; Claude Molinari at (313) 498-7339 or cmolinari@tcfcenterdetroit.com.