Attention, all hands: Captain on the bridge.
No one stops. No one notices. All the bustle just keeps bustling.
That’s quite alright — because it’s his job to stop. It’s his job to notice.
And it’s his job — amid lumbering forklifts, rumbling trucks, hammering, wiring, snaking of cables, building of booths, hoisting of billboards and four-day rising of a mini-indoor city within what was a vast, echo-y hall — to make sure that all this hustle and all this muscle pays off in a special kind of bustle:
One successful show at the Las Vegas Convention Center, aka the LVCC.
“I’m the eyes and ears. Everything. Top to bottom — and I’ll make adjustments on the fly,” says Steve Patterson, senior manager of convention services at the LVCC, as he strides through the North Hall, his head a 360-degree swivel stick, inspecting everything in his line of sight for the three-day, 2019 Kitchen & Bath Industry Show, aka KBIS.
(Patterson is an employee of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, which produces Las Vegas Newswire.)
“Be real safe when you’re walking through here because if you get hit by a forklift, you’re going to be in the wrong,” cautions Patterson, and he’s not joshing. You dodge, turn and spin like it’s a dance routine — skipping side to side like you’re Fred and the forklift is Ginger — to maneuver through a convention hall as it’s becoming a CONVENTION HALL in its moth-to-butterfly metamorphosis.
Before it’s all up and over, approximately 33,000 attendees from 50-plus nations will have roamed through the kitchen and bath industry wares of more than 600 exhibitors, all of it chronicled by 400 members of the media.
Expected economic boon to Las Vegas: $48.4 million in revenue.
Just as rapidly as it all burst forth will it all vanish again — followed almost immediately by an entirely different industry confab that will plant its flag in the LVCC’s multiple halls even before exhaust fumes from the tailpipes of departing KBIS trucks dissipate into the Vegas night. “It’s fast and furious in here for tear-out,” Patterson says.
But that’s, ya know, then. This is now. Word of the day? D-E-T-A-I-L-S.
“Before they even get here, they submit a floor plan to me and the fire marshal in-house, he puts a stamp on it and I put a stamp on it,” says the bespectacled Patterson, a man with a thoroughly easygoing manner that nicely smooths the way for his thoroughly minutiae-minded focus.
“We have certain areas we can use and certain areas we can’t use. You can’t use an egress path. If you open a door, it blocks the access out of here. If the door is 36 inches, we have to make sure there’s 36 inches of passage. Yesterday there wasn’t so we had to move the whole (booth) last night. … Ooh, watch behind you.”
I am, I am.
Before we even got here, we were up there — that stylish indoor balcony up on the LVCC’s second-floor administrative office. Along with Senior Director of Convention Services Patrick Coyne, Patterson confers with the department team. Ten convention managers rotate or combine talents to oversee the massive shows that stream through the LVCC week after week, month after month.
On today’s agenda: clients — i.e., KBIS folks — arrived the night before and immediately commandeered the South Hall. Wind and rain over the previous two days somewhat slowed show move-in, unloading and banner-hanging. Skies have since brightened, the pace has quickened.
After a jovial courtesy visit to Lane Vento, the KBIS show manager — personal pleasantries are as much of a hosting must as professional vigilance — Patterson’s off for his hall walk-throughs.
Cell phone’s in his pocket. Walkie-talkie’s on his hip. Both get a workout.
“Can you retract the air wall and replace the compactor?” he asks a dispatcher on his squawk box, then makes a brief stopover at the security booth. “Our security department has a program where we do a blanket group-text so if, say, you are a show manager and you’re riding down the escalator, you might see an ambulance out front,” Patterson says. “You’re like, ‘What the heck is that all about?’ But hopefully, you will already have gotten a text saying, ‘Woman twisted her ankle in North Hall, EMS on scene.’ Communication — key to success,’” he says.
Not the only key. Drilled into his head: The Three T’s. “Tickets, Tacos and Taxis,” he declares.
“Tickets means registration. You don’t want long lines. You want easy access, easy badge pickup. A long line turns people off, sours them before they even get here. Tacos: food and beverage, your catering, concessions, got to be spot on. Can’t be hungry or thirsty. Shouldn’t be a long line or unpleasant. Shouldn’t be on your mind. And then taxis (Uber, Lyft and buses included). Gotta be smooth, seamless. You take care of those three things, you’ll have a fine show. An old-timer told me that once and it always stuck with me.”
That’s it? Not quite.
Look around Central Hall (623,056 square feet that can hold 3,453 10-by-10-foot booths). And North Hall (409,077 square feet capable of hosting 2,069 10-by-10-foot booths). And South Hall (two floors, totaling 908,496 square feet that can wrap its walls around 4,422 10-by-10-foot booths). And an extended “salon” area for even more exhibits.
Imagine the kind of golf driving range you could operate here. That, however, is not the idea. Not with these exacting standards.
“With the floor plans, it’s usually an 8-foot aisle, 10 feet around the perimeter and a lot of specifications on heights and hanging units,” Patterson says. “All this rigging is brought in and motors that lift them up. That’s a lot of work that has to get done even before they start bringing in crates. It’s a pretty heavy show.”
Ya think? Take a look around at the industry brands blaring from booth marquees: Plastpro, Thermador, Panda Kitchen, ClosetMaid, SeaGull Kitchen and Bath, Kolbe Windows & Doors, American Gas Association, GoldenHome Cabinetry, NGY Stones & Cabinets, Huayi Faucets, Mohawk Kitchens, Heat & Glo, Dupont, Sherwin-Williams, Emser Tile, Progress Lighting, Hubbell electrical products, Floor & Décor.
Plus — more or less — hundreds more.
“There’s a booth I need to look into, Kohler. It’s the anchor booth — it’s huge,” Patterson says, as he heads toward this show’s mamma jamma.
Since he’s on a roll, how ’bout we let Patterson take it from here? Steve, the floor(s) all yours:
“There are times when you have to walk like a contortionist to get through here.” (So we noticed.)
“Safety first. If I see someone on the top rung of a ladder or in an unsafe position, a forklift operator not paying attention, has earphones in, that’s automatic. We tune right into that, make them stop. We want everyone to go home safely at night.” (Got it — no rockin’ out to Whitesnake while operating heavy machinery.)
“And we want to make sure everybody stays in their lane, that the booths don’t spread out beyond their booth space.” (Yo — don’t be a booth hog!)
“The catwalks are a sensitive area. Takes a special pass to get up there. It’s controlled out of our security.” (Prone to vertigo? Don’t even steal a glance.)
“Here’s what we call our last-in, first-out booths, smaller ones, usually, because these freight doors serve the entire hall. It’s really valuable space there. It’s just a constant flow, a give-and-take of trucks.” (Logistics—add that to the communication and The Three T’s keys).
“They move in 24 hours a day until the show moves in. I will be here first thing in the morning and late into the evening to meet the client’s needs.” (Perhaps they could open an energy bar concession stand, just for him.)
“Uh-oh. Dead end. We’re stuck.” (Hey, back it up, back it up!)
Busy work makes for busy bees, and Patterson is buzzing everywhere.
We’re zipping outside on a golf cart now, zigzagging between streets and walkways, up and down parking ramps like mini-roller coaster jaunts, monitoring the registration tent, freight/loading docks and the salon that will house extra exhibits. Then it’s even onto hallways lined with meeting venues to hunt for burned-out lights and take stock of room rearrangements for industry functions, aided by Patterson’s colleague, Associate Convention Services Manager Ruth Chan.
“Those meeting rooms go from a banquet setup to a classroom to a theater to a lecture,” Patterson says. “They are flipped during the day or overnight to build a stage. (Clients) are very particular — where they want their podium and their steps, exactly how many seats they want, what they want outside the room, skirted tables or non-skirted, food and beverages.”
Phew. Anything else? Oh yes — the capper. A meeting at the LVCC boardroom, where KBIS brass gets a soup-to-nuts rundown on the convention center’s uber-preparedness. Along with Patterson, updates are provided by convention security, traffic and customer service officials, plus LVCC partners including Cox Business (for online connectivity), Freeman Convention Management, FedEx, and Centerplate catering services.
Why, there’s even a spread of coffee, pastries and fruit.
“I’m the referee who’s focused on customer service and we always want to find a way to say yes, to find a way they can do what they want to do, safely,” Patterson says.
“Our clients are the lease-holder, their clients are the exhibitors and everybody’s clients are the attendees. We want to make sure everybody has a successful event from the minute they step off the bus or taxi to the minute they depart the property to enjoy the city of Las Vegas.”
Attention all hands: Captain has left the bridge.
That means KBIS is ready to warp-speed into action, its guardian scrupulously overseeing this industry galaxy.
To offer feedback on this story or suggestions for future stories on Las Vegas Newswire, contact Managing Editor Steve Bornfeld at SBornfeld@lvcva.com.