Headquarters: San Antonio, Texas
Services provided: Wiring Staples Center
Technicians have been working for six weeks at Staples Center to build up a copper and fiber-optic infrastructure to connect the convention media to their worldwide viewers, delegates to their friends via cell phones, and print journalists to their editors. "It's like going into the desert and saying in six weeks there's going to be a city of 20,000 to 30,000 people," said Rich Motta, vice president of operations for the Democratic National Convention. "It's a huge endeavor."
Company officials say what they've installed could support the communication needs of a small city though most of it will be removed after the convention. Almost 5,000 miles of copper wire, 250 miles of fiber-optic cables, and more than 8,000 voice circuits have been installed. Close to 450 DSL lines have also been installed by request, mostly by the media.The company dispatched 500 people to Los Angeles, with up to 250 people working on any given day all the way through the convention. During the event, delegates will vote on computers spread across the convention floor. Viewers will even be able to watch the event via Webcast, thanks to cameras set up throughout the convention that will be streaming Internet video live all week. Reporters will file stories from the convention floor and photographers will download digital pictures to their editors, then head back into the crowd. Television broadcasters' images will be sent along high-capacity fiber-optic lines. The wiring work only got busier as television stations, dot-com journalists, and others began to finalize their plans and make requests for customized connections to their booths, suites, and trailers outside. "It really got hot and heavy the first of July," Motta said. At the end of four days, most of that work will be ripped out. SBC does plan to keep many improvements that fit into plans to upgrade the downtown area and arena, such as added fiber-optic lines and additional cell phone booster antennas in and around Staples Center. Until now, "there hasn't been good (cell phone) reception in the Lakers locker room," an SBC spokesman said.The Patina Group
Headquarters: Los Angeles
Services provided: Catering
It's hard to keep a low profile when you've been selected to cater a reception for 20,000 guests, the largest official event scheduled during the Democratic National Convention. Especially when those guests happen to be many of the most powerful media figures in the world. That's the contract won by Joachim Splichal's Patina Group, which is catering the media reception that will kick off the confab. Held on Aug. 12 from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., the party was to span the Performing Arts Center, Hope Street, and the Department of Water and Power property. The Patina Group put together a proposal in early February to cater the event and received official approval from the L.A. Convention 2000 Host Committee in May, leaving just a few short months to get the logistics down pat. Patina officials wouldn't disclose the size of the contract, but the Host Committee is spending about $1.5 million on the party, and most of that sum is going to the caterer. "Essentially, we've taken the event and divided it into four divisions, four parties of 5,000 occurring simultaneously," said Stephanie Edens, head of catering and special events for the Patina Group. "It's still big, it's still a lot of people, but that makes it a lot more manageable."
With menus developed by Splichal and executive chef Alec Lestr, each segment will have a different food theme to represent L.A.'s diversity: Hispanic American, Asian American, African-American Southern soul food, and an all-inclusive variety of food. Food and beverage stations will be scattered throughout the grounds, with minimal seating to allow for mingling. Because the event is not a sit-down affair, the food is "fork-friendly," meaning it can be eaten with fingers or a fork but does not require a knife. "Everyone knows the implications of the event, the importance of it," Edens said. "Because it's the pre-opening event, it will set the tone in a lot of ways. That pressure is on everyone."Event Transportation Associates
Headquarters: Kingston, Wash.
Services provided: Bus transportation
It's Event Transportation Associates' task to move what it estimates could be as many as 14,500 people staying in 76 hotels to more than 33 venues this week. The company specializes in providing ground transportation at major events, a high-profile business with plenty of opportunities for embarrassing snafus. But it has worked with the Democratic National Convention before (in 1992 in New York City), and company officials hope to leverage a smoothly run convention to establish a permanent presence in Los Angeles. "It's an important deal for us because it helps reinforce our presence in the L.A. marketplace," said Mark Moss, operations manager. ETA handled transportation for the 1999 Women's World Cup Soccer competition that involved operating in eight different states, wrapping up in Los Angeles, and the 1991 U.S. Olympic Festival in Los Angeles. It was also the company that ran the buses at the bomb-scarred 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, where hours-long delays in transporting athletes and fans marred the event from the start. That won't happen here, Moss said. The city is supporting the company's efforts to ensure everything runs smoothly. "Everybody in L.A. wants L.A. to look good, so everybody is doing what they think needs to get done to make it work," Moss said. ETA won the $2.6 million contract from the city's Convention and Visitors Bureau. Moss credits the company's victory to its experience with handling large, complex operations. "We're one of the most experienced firms in the country dealing with this type of event, regardless of what city the event is in," Moss said. Details include hiring 750 mostly local employees; contracting for 290 private- and public-sector buses that can be taken out of circulation for five days; locating a secure place to park about 270 buses overnight; and setting up paths for delegates to walk between buses and various events. Due to security concerns, the only buses allowed near the Staples Center will be ETA buses. Each bus must have a sheriff's deputy on board, be safely secured at night, and be capable of getting delegates (who are spread through seven cities) to and from the convention on time. "It's the level of details and the coordination of all the levels of detail," Moss said.PCL Construction Services Inc.
Services provided: Converting half of Staples Center's 166 suites into media booths
PCL Construction Services Inc. was recruited by the Democratic National Convention Committee to convert half of the suites at Staples Center those on the west end of the arena with direct sight lines to the stage into broadcasting booths allowing anchormen, camera crews and producers from 33 networks to shoot and beam images from the event. After spending a month knocking down the walls between suites and preparing them for use as media war rooms, PCL will have just 10 days following the convention to return them to normal. "After the convention is when the real crunch begins," said Andy Curd, a vice president with PCL. "We have to get everything taken out and everything restored." That will mean bringing in as many as 80 workers on 24-hour shifts about what it took to get the suites converted in the first place. "When we built that thing, we worked around the clock," Curd said. "We got in there July 9 and we've pretty much been working continuously since." At the least, converting the suites meant using drywall and wood paneling to cover up the cherry-wood cabinets, marble countertops and carpets familiar to elite sports fans. The bottoms of doors were cut to make room for the miles and miles of cable running into the suites. Additional air conditioning units had to be set up to dissipate the heat produced by the production equipment. Handrails were added to prevent scurrying production assistants from falling during the acceptance speech. Many media companies brought in their own designers to set up their backdrops and fine-tune the suites. CBS has the most ambitious convention booth among the major networks, Curd said, taking up four suites and partitioning them with glasswork and finished wood. Some networks wanted suites set aside as green rooms for political pundits and interviewees. For PCL, it's a nice project to have under its belt, Curd said. The company was approached early on for the job, for obvious reasons: PCL was one of the original subcontractors on building the arena. "We're pretty connected to that building," Curd said. "We haven't been willing to let go of it as contractors we spent so much blood, sweat and tears building it."Inter-Con Security Systems
Services provided: Supplemental security at various convention-related locations
Everyone allowed into Staples Center during the convention will pass through metal detectors and have their credentials scrupulously checked at various points throughout. Aiding the L.A. Police Department, the Secret Service, and various other law enforcement authorities with fulfilling those tasks will be Inter-Con Security Systems. More than 400 Inter-Con staff will be deployed around Staples Center and at other convention-related events and locations. While security at the most sensitive places will be the responsibility of the LAPD and Secret Service, Inter-Con personnel will guard areas outside Staples and check credentials of those moving around and going inside the convention. "Think of it as a series of concentric circles," said Inter-Con President Rick Hernandez. "The closer you get to the floor, the more restricted it is. We are guarding some of the outer areas." The privately held, family-run company was started by Rick's father Enrique, a former lieutenant in the LAPD. Inter-Con is one of the fastest-growing private security firms in the world, with almost 20,000 employees worldwide. It helps guard U.S. embassies in Europe, Latin America and Africa, and its longstanding relationship with the U.S. State Department means it provides additional security for such high-profile events as the recently ended Camp David talks between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization. The company is under contract with Los Angeles to provide security at various events and has been working with the city and convention officials since the beginning of the year. Hernandez declined to disclose how much the company is being paid for its convention work.
He makes no bones about the fact that, while he thinks Inter-Con's reputation speaks for itself, his personal connection to the event didn't hurt his company's efforts to win the job. A former president of the L.A. Police Commission, Hernandez is a co-chairman of the L.A. Convention 2000 Host Committee. "We got the job because we're the best qualified. But having said that, I would have been disappointed if we didn't get it given my position," he said with a smile.
For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.