Sometimes, you just get lucky. "In 1997, when Denver hosted the G-8 Summit, we knew we were going to be the world's press room," says John Adams, general manager of the Denver Convention Center Complex. "So the city asked us to put out a bid for a fiber-optic network. We didn't know it, but the contractor was also wiring city traffic lights. Since the contractor was working under the street anyway, we got not only an open-end, fiber-optic cable to the Convention Center, but a strand to the Currigan Exhibition Hall (the old convention center, now a part of the Complex), too."
With a high-capacity, fiber-optic cable to handle computer networks, along with an AT&T System 75 PBX that can handle 1,000 telephones over category 5 wire, the Complex is ready for just about anything a high-tech event can throw at it. "We will handle any network, anywhere, any time," says Adams. "We can run a token ring network on one side of the building, and a 10BaseT on the other, and have them communicate with no problem." The center can also handle the very newest popular network designs, like ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode), adds Allen Dice, the Convention Center's technology manager.
"We'll be going to fiber for all our communications soon," says Dice. "Even category 5 wire is starting to look old when you're running a 100BaseT fast Ethernet." The center's main line for data into the building is an OC-12 supplied by ICG, an independent long-
distance carrier. "It's like a bundle of three or four DS-3 lines--DS-3s are like T1 lines, but for Internet service only, not phones," he adds.
100 Nodes by Morning And even when this much connectivity is not enough--as when Cisco Systems came in for a user conference recently--Dice can turn to his main technology vendor, Globalcenter. "Cisco wanted a lot of cabling beyond our fiber-optic network. To look under the carpeting while they were here was pretty amazing," says Dice. "Cisco probably had about 100 nodes, including 48 workstations. Globalcenter's Internet team came in at midnight and were done by 6 a.m." Globalcenter is also the center's Internet provider via its Primenet service. "Theywith me, and I bill for their services," says Adams.
The Colorado Convention Center is managed by SMG, a private firm that operates convention centers from Atlantic City to Salt Lake City. It's owned by Hyatt Hotels and Aramark Corp. And while, as Adams jokes, "Nothing is free in a convention center," the arrangement gives him a lot of flexibility and the ability to make things happen. His facility is also priced competitively. "We're highly affordable, at 19 cents a square foot," he says.
Not That Big--But Real Smart With a little under a million gross square feet in two buildings (290,000 contiguous square feet with the entire exhibit hall open, enough to seat 19,000 people theater-style), it's not the biggest convention center, but it may be one of the smartest in terms of technology. Exhibit Hall A has not just electrical, water, and compressed air every 90 square feet, but video and data as well. The floor pockets, at 30-foot intervals, have electrical, telephone, and data connections.
Adams and Dice have their eyes on the future. "The next thing coming is going to be dial-up kiosks for picking up e-mail without having to go back to your hotel room or over to a pay phone," says Adams. We've seen them; we think they will do very well." He also says that as soon as someone--probably TCI, he thinks--offers cable service into the building, the Complex will start offering cable modem connections.
Adams says the Convention Center Complex Web site, www.denverconvention.com, will be undergoing major revisions soon. "On-line service ordering is coming," he says. Planners will soon be able to handle most of their meeting specification requirements on the Web.
One last project: Adams says a plan to tear down and replace the Currigan Exhibition Hall, built in 1969, is in the works, and that in the not-too-distant future, Denver's convention facilities will be not just smart, but big, too.