PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – The R.I. Convention Center Authority is speaking out about its future just days after the state announced its plans to deconstruct two of three field hospitals built for overflow COVID-19 patients.
After six months of cancelled, events, the Convention Center and the Dunkin Donuts Center remain hopeful to welcome people back in soon and they have measures in place to make it safe. However, re-opening will come in stages.
Inside the centers usually bustling with life, you’ll find empty hallways and a vacant stadium.
Jim McCarvill, the Executive Director of the Convention Center Authority says it’s been this way far too long.
“People coming, the enthusiasm to the arena to watch hockey or basketball, that’s all gone,” McCarvill said.
On a normal year, from the Dunkin to the exhibition halls, the center hosts dozens of events and generates an economic impact of over $50-million.
This year, they closed their doors due to COVID-19 and have been operating as a field hospital since. But now, as plans move forward to deconstruct the site, they are looking into options to open their doors back up. McCarvill says the Dunkin would come first.
“We don’t want to be pushing the envelope, we’re here team players, but we’re going to be anxious,” McCarvill said. “ We’ll just keep coming back with proposals until one is worthy of approval.”
McCarvill says even with approval, indoor capacity statewide is still at 125 people. Until that number goes up, the Convention Authority and ASM Global are working on safety plans to reopen.
“Multiple floor plans, multiple seating plans, they’ve worked with their corporate people and Ticketmaster,” McCarvill said. “They’ve got a 25% plan, 50% plan, they’ve done the work.”
Across the facility, you’ll find hand sanitizer stations and special venueshield flooring. They have a rigorous cleaning and sanitation process in place. They’re also floating around the idea of Plexiglas in the stadium and pod seating for families.
“Until we get the ability to allow larger crowds, it’s going to be a more select group of people we can book,” McCarvill said.
Even if the centers could open partially, McCarvill says it’s tough to book an act. He says it doesn’t make financial sense for the big events they host to hold an event for what’s currently 125 people maximum.
McCarvill says he hopes to have things up and running by the spring.