The only hotel in the area that is completely union-owned and -operated, NHL-selected event venue the Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa put Meretsky's methods to the test, she says.
For starters, the Hollywood, Fla., property required decorator Designs by Sean to sign a detailed vendor agreement. A full 13 pages regulating everything from riser heights to forklift-wheel material, the agreement was “the longest one I've seen in my life,” she says.
Once the document was signed, the real challenge began. To fulfill NHL events and entertainment vice president Frank Supovitz's request for a regionally inspired theme, Comcor and crew had to transform the hotel's 50,000-square-foot Great Hall.
Meretsky says she started by dividing the space into three themed sections: Coral Reef, Tropics/Everglades and Spring Break. Each section was designated its own unique decor — much of it set to hang from the room's soaring 29-foot-high ceiling. Elements destined for suspension included fabric swags, fatigue netting, banners and prop suns.
But before the extensive three-day setup could begin, another crucial team member came into play. “The fire marshal was extremely thorough,” Meretsky notes. During a two-hour meeting, production staff and the marshal went over “every single square inch of the room, including all our setups,” she says. Additionally, the marshal inspected all fabric samples and decor materials for fire regulation compliance and conducted two more walk-throughs before administering a fire safety certificate.
SIDE BY SIDE
On the Thursday before the Saturday bash, load-in began — and with it came a new need for cooperation and compromise
Most significant, according to Meretsky, was the mandatory use of union riggers for all installations. “They first had to be instructed as to how and where to hang decor — not just lights or banners,” she explains. “Not only did it cost us their time, it also cost us our people's time because it took twice the time to do things. We had to direct them, but they had to do it.”
A walk-through with Supovitz and Designs by Sean's Alex Saludes led to more mutual give-and-take. Meretsky says the NHL vice president voiced concern that crowding could be a factor at the 4,000-guest event and was looking for places to make more space. “We got over to the Spring Break area and there were these huge custom-made beanbags,” she recounts. “He said, ‘Let's cut this. I know my people and they won't sit on beanbags.’”
Faced with a dilemma — whether or not to insist on an item in the face of client doubt — Meretsky says she and Saludes opted to push for the key thematic ingredient. Supovitz, after testing out the soft seats at their insistence, gave his skeptical approval. According to Meretsky, “He said, ‘I still don't think they're going to use these, but if you really want them …’”
IN THE BAG
On event night, guests got into the South Florida spirit from the get-go, as they encountered two 14-foot-high Caribbean-clothed puppets and a steel band at the Great Hall's entrance.
As the evening progressed, revelers made their way through themed areas, sampling everything from Caribbean paella in the Coral Reef section to key lime tarts and mango cheesecake in the Tropics/Everglades area.
When they weren't grooving to the sounds of headline act the B52s, many guests made themselves comfortable in none other than the nearly axed beanbags. “That entire section was the most crowded,” Meretsky says. “People really noticed it and enjoyed it.”
A pleased Supovitz concedes that the unconventional seats defied his expectations: “In all the years I've been doing this, there are two things I've never seen that I saw here. The first is people were dancing — this group doesn't dance. And the second is they sat in beanbag chairs.”
What didn't defy his expectations, he says, was Meretsky's capability, especially in her creative use of a decidedly difficult space. Most impressive, he notes, was her sectioning of the room into “pockets — but not corners. The room's too big for corners.” The result, he reports, was an “amazing” room where guests had to circulate “because if they didn't move around, they were going to miss something that someone else saw.”
Comcor 5353 N. Federal Highway, Suite 402, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33308; 954/491-3233; www.comcorevents.com
Chicken Tenders with Coconut Sauce, Mango Salsa and Barbecue Sauce
Assorted Focaccia Pizzas
Spicy Peel-and-Eat Shrimp
Fresh Fruit with Tropical Fondue Sauces
Key Lime Tarts, Mango Cheesecake Diamonds and Coconut Cookies