Pepsi Center getting makeover for DNC
The Denver Post/AP
DENVER ” The Pepsi Center hands over the keys to construction teams for the Democratic National Convention Committee at 8 a.m. Monday, and the on-the-ground, multimillion-dollar race to transform the arena into a convention hall by Aug. 25 begins.
Standing inside the Pepsi Center not long after Denver won the bid, the facility’s general manager, Dave Jolette, waved his hand at the vast space in something like awe, or maybe fear.
“The transformation,” he said, “will be enormous.”
For the past two weeks, Jolette has been overseeing a wholesale clearance of equipment and furnishings from the building’s retail stores, all its storage areas, the locker rooms for the Denver Nuggets and the Colorado Avalanche.
“There are weights up there that are bigger than you or I,” Jolette said of the effort to clear out the Nuggets’ weight room.
The idea of turning over the place he cares for night and day to crews charged with turning it into the immense media spectacle that is the convention used to keep him up nights, he said. These days, after countless meetings with DNCC staffers, he’s become resigned to the process.
It’s details like this that mesmerize him: The Pepsi Center is outfitted with 576 miles of phone lines, computer lines and high-speed cable. But that’s not enough. The DNCC’s needs, due in part to security, create a system “so massive it exceeds the Pepsi Center’s.”
So the DNCC contractors will overlay all those cables with their own.
Qwest has donated several million dollars’ worth of telecommunications equipment to outfit the convention hall and the media city that will go up outside it with approximately 3,000 data lines and 2,500 voice-grade circuits. Based on past conventions, Qwest estimates the project will require about 160 miles of copper and coaxial cable in and around the Pepsi Center, and more than a dozen miles of fiber-optic.
Xcel Energy is donating the extra transformers needed to electrify the thousands of computers, cameras, microphones. Several other high-tech firms are donating goods and services.
Many of the 95 suites will be stripped of their furnishings and transformed into broadcasting booths. Walls in some of them will be knocked down to allow for bigger networks. The carpeting will be covered with hardboard sheeting.
Some of the boxes will exist as hospitality suites. Their bars can stay.
And though the Pepsi Center has its own lighting ” good enough for professional sports and top- name entertainment acts ” the Democrats will bring in their own.
They will bring so many lights and speakers ” as many as 300,000 pounds’ worth ” the ceiling will have to be reinforced to hold them.
“It’s kind of like a house party at your house that you’re not hosting,” Jolette said.
Not that the Pepsi Center’s owner, Kroenke Arena Co., should really worry. A good chunk of the $40.6 million in private money that is being raised by the Denver committee hosting the Democrats is going straight to Kroenke.
Leasing the Pepsi Center for the seven weeks of construction, the week of the convention and the remaining two weeks of reconstruction, means $6.5 million for Kroenke.
(That’s $1.5 million more than the host committee for the Republicans is raising to pay rent for the Xcel Energy Center in Minneapolis-St. Paul, according to The Associated Press.)
And Kroenke’s owner, Stan Kroenke, is allowed exclusive access to one of the skyboxes, should the staunch Republican want it. The contract the DNCC signed with Kroenke’s company specifies that the suite have a “guaranteed unobstructed podium view.” Denver’s Alvarado Construction has teamed with Turner Construction and HOK Sport Venue Event, the Pepsi Center’s original architect, to lead the overhaul.
The DNCC hasn’t released the value of the contract.
When Boston hosted the Democrats’ 2004 convention, the construction project inside the convention hall, and managing and engineering, cost nearly $4 million, according to figures released by the Boston mayor’s office. Another $5.8 million went into building work spaces for the media.
For months, planners have been at work getting ready for Monday.
The Alvarado-led team has been drawing up plans and talking to media companies about their power, lighting and broadcasting needs, said Linda Alvarado, the company’s president.
Every morning, Alvarado, Travis Dredd, the DNCC’s deputy chief executive for inside-the-hall operations, and other managers on the site will have a “daily game plan” meeting where they will review what was done, what needs to be done and the progress of the construction.
They plan to be on site 24/7 in the weeks until the convention and will run two shifts from Day One to make sure all the work is complete in time. Because time is short, multiple teams will be working simultaneously on roofing, hanging cable trays, installing mechanical and electrical equipment and demolition.
“It may be weeks, but for us it’s hours,” Alvarado said.
Alvarado and Dredd are working with multiple partners to meet the deadlines.
That process will continue and could take unusual twists now that media organizations are learning that the Democrats’ presumptive nominee, Barack Obama, is considering moving the climactic acceptance speech to Invesco Field at Mile High.
The first work to take place is to protect the existing Pepsi Center structure and move equipment such as the basketball parquet floors and the hockey walls into storage.
Qwest Colorado president Chuck Ward said that in recent weeks, crews have bored beneath Pepsi Center parking lots and installed telecommunications lines.
“We’re basically turning the Pepsi Center parking lot into a media city,” Ward said. “There is obviously over the next 45 days a great deal of intense work.”
If the past is any guide, as many as 250 workers burning through a million dollars a week will work at least two shifts a day to make the changes, said Joe Stukel, the project executive for the overhaul of the Fleet Center in Boston for the 2004 Democratic Convention and for the United Center in 1996 in Chicago.
“You’re literally starting at 6:30 in the morning and working till midnight,” Stukel said.
And if you think that’s tough, once the confetti and balloons have hit the floor, the teams have just 18 days to turn the Pepsi Center back into a sports arena.
Rest areas and recreation facilities along Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon, including boat put-ins, trails and the paved bike path, have been routinely closed to nonpermit public use during flash flood watches.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Aspen and Snowmass Village make the Aspen Times’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User