DURING THE 39-DAY lead time and four-day load-in of the Washington Convention Center's March grand opening gala, Brian Losurdo says, “construction never stopped until the doors were open for the event.” But while the national accounts director for Washington-based The TCI Companies acknowledges the difficulties posed by noise, debris and lack of working elevators, he calls the situation “one of the best opportunities I've ever had to use creativity with a team for purposes of trouble-shooting.”
The problem-solving spirit came in handy during the event's planning stages, when stage size became an issue. To accommodate performers and a ribbon cutting, Losurdo and crew were looking at a 28-by-30-foot stage at minimum. “But that started eating up a lot of real estate,” he says. Collective consideration led to the construction of a custom stage that could be installed directly over the lower part of a major staircase, salvaging precious floor space to accommodate the event's 2,500 guests.
Idea-sharing served the team once again on event day, when last-minute granite-sealing — a pre-event necessity to protect the grand lobby's new floors — created unanticipated risks. “The problem with granite-sealing is that it's slippery,” Losurdo says. “We didn't want people to slip and kill themselves.” The producer recounts a battery of attempted solutions, from dousing the newly sealed floors with soapy water to blowing them with huge fans. Finally, he says, a staging staffer made the call to expand one of the event's 16-by-16-foot satellite stages and move it from a carpeted area to the still-slick granite — a plan change executed in the final hours before doors opened.
Losurdo cites consistent, candid communication as key to the event's success. When it came to interfacing with construction crew, TCI employees and staff from the nearly 20 different vendors Losurdo counts as production partners, “There was absolutely no sugarcoating,” he says. “One of my sayings became, ‘You have to hate me before you can love me.’”
Lana Ostrander, director of marketing for TCI client the Washington Convention Center Authority, also steers clear of sugarcoating, acknowledging that the unfinished building “couldn't have been worse conditions” for event setup. But, noting overwhelming positive feedback from attendees, plus seven event-related articles in the Washington Post alone on the Monday following the gala, her words of praise for the final outcome are sweet: “For me, the event could not have been better.”
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