Austin Convention Center Adapts To Serve The Community

January 13, 2021


In 2020, a global health crisis (COVID-19) caused the Austin Convention Center Department (ACCD), which owns and manages the highly desirable Austin Convention Center and the Palmer Events Center, to adjust to cancellations and postponements of 154 events, conventions, shows and meetings.

The Austin Convention Center Department changed, from its traditional role of operating and providing high-performing event services, to focus on aiding and assisting the Austin area community.

ACCD backed the Austin community by logging 18,850 hours of assistance, and donated 10,522 pounds of food to shelters and food banks. The staff joined emergency shelter operations and provided volunteers working with Emergency Operations Center (EOC), Austin Public Health (APH), Communication and Technology Management (CTM), citywide, regional and federal programs.

“I praise the hard work and effort of our staff for embracing our operational challenges, to create a safer and healthier environment. Their enthusiasm to support pandemic relief efforts is remarkable,” said Trisha Tatro, Austin Convention Center Department interim director. “We are a part of the Austin community, willing to help as we continue to prepare and eventually get back to what we do best.”

The staff mobilized to provide site activation’s and serve community needs with the Austin Convention Center and Palmer Events Center staging as an Alternate Care Site with medical beds and power, and as hurricane evacuees and medical shelters.

The Austin Convention Center earned GBAC-STAR accreditation for sanitary and procedures to respond, and recover from outbreaks and pandemics. The department purchased and implemented industry-leading equipment and standards for readiness.

Along with providing sanitizer, updating signage, and updating health procedures, the department purchased hospital-grade quaternary, one-step germicide, fungicide, virucide, Sentry 4 UV stand-alone disinfection machines, and handheld electrostatic sprayers.

The department participated in two community programs, the Eating Apart Together (EAT) program and the Dell Face Shield Project. The EAT initiative served more than 500,000 meals, with the Austin Convention Center Department providing space and people power to package food that is then delivered by outreach organizations across the city. The department provided space for the Dell Face Shield project space at the convention center. The Austin based volunteer organization, in a partnership with the City of Austin and the UT Dell Medical School, manufactured and assembled 10,000 face shields for health care workers and first responders.

The Austin Convention Center Catering team also delivered 32,917 meals between April – Oct., including 7,405 to EOC, 936 for Alternate Care Facility, and 900 meals for hurricane evacuees.

Construction and renovation projects included ground-breaking construction for the off-site Marshalling Yard project. The Marshalling Yard will stage truck deliveries, relieving downtown traffic, and providing storage for other city departments. The Palmer Events Center recertified as LEED Gold, and other projects included the start of renovations to the convention center South Kitchen, completion of the 5th Street Garage tenant space, LED lighting upgrades for the 2nd and 5th Street garages, and continued progress toward the Austin Convention Center expansion.

The sales teams continued to actively book space. The Austin Convention Center team rebooked 27 events to future dates, negotiated 26 new definite groups, and continued negotiations with an additional 64 groups. The Palmer Events Center Sales Team has retained $1 million in rental revenue for FY2021 working with clients seeking to postpone or reschedule.

The department also received awards, recognition and rankings in 2020. This includes the following:

  • The Austin Convention Center Catering team awarded the Spirit of Hospitality Award, by Levy Restaurant, for its exceptional customer and quality of service
  • The Austin Convention Center was named a Top 20 Texas-based operation that demonstrates a commitment to environmental practices by Texan by Nature (TxN 20), a nonprofit conservation group founded by former First Lady Laura Bush
  • Palmer Events Center was awarded LEED Gold Certification developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC)
  • Smart Stars Award for Best Convention Center, presented by Smart Meetings Magazine, voted by meeting professionals, recognizing the best in all facets of the industry
  • National Prime Site Award, presented by Facilities and Destinations trade publication, selected by meeting industry executives directly involved in site selection, i.e., association executives, meeting planners, and trade show managers
  • Readers’ Choice Award, presented by ConventionSouth Magazine, nominated by meeting planners and awarded to meeting sites that display exemplary creativity and professionalism.

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