ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County Convention Center officials have released their detailed plan to safely reopening their venue amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Convention center officials laid out their plan to Orange County’s economic task force, which is made up of various Central Florida leaders and has been tasked by Mayor Jerry Demings with making science-backed decisions on how to safely reopen the local economy.
Officials with the Orange County Convention Center, the second-largest convention facility in North America, have been itching to get back to putting on major events, which began getting postponed or canceled in March, shortly after the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Florida.
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On Wednesday, the convention center laid out what it’s calling its “Recovery and Resiliency Plan," which focuses on a three-pronged strategy aimed at keeping clients, attendees and visitors safe, according to a convention center spokesperson.
The convention center says it will phase in modified operations by doing the following:
- Implementing the OCCC’s Recovery and Resiliency Guidelines, which were developed alongside the county’s Health Services Department.
- Pursuing the Global Biorisk Advisory Council’s (GBAC) Star Accreditation, which convention center officials say is recognized as the gold standard of safe venues and provides third-party validation to ensure the implementation of rigorous protocols in response to biorisk situations.
- Collaborating with a large established health care system in Central Florida to receive expert guidance and on-site support through temperature checks, screenings and telemedicine visits.
Demings said already, some of the shows that had to be postponed have rescheduled but even more remain canceled.
“Twenty shows have rescheduled with an economic impact anticipated of $375 million. Thirty-two shows, however, canceled with an economic loss of $734 million,” Demings said.
The mayor added that those canceled events and the lack of visitors across the region in general have caused the county’s Tourism Development Tax dollars to take a substantial hit. Comptroller Phil Diamond said collection of those funds dropped 97% in April, hitting a new low.
That loss of income could affect the way the county budgets projects moving forward. For example, Demings said leaders may need to make some considerations when it comes to the convention center’s planned expansion.
“We had intended to use TDT revenues for the expansion of the convention center. We had a plan for a $605 million expansion here that will cause us to look at the phasing of that expansion project. It will be based upon the revenues that will come in so we may have to delay portions of that,” Demings said.
View the Orange County Convention Center’s reopening plan below:
“By providing a responsible, data-driven plan, The Center of Hospitality is securing its future as a venue and as an economic driver for the destination and the industry,” said OCCC Executive Director Mark Tester. “After weeks of extensive preparations, planning and training, the OCCC is excited to welcome back clients, attendees and our employees.”
Convention center officials said the three-pronged approach was developed in accordance with policy recommendations from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, Orange County government officials and state and federal mandates regarding COVID-19.
The presentation of the convention center’s plans follows the approval for Universal, Disney and SeaWorld -- Central Florida’s largest theme parks -- to reopen.
The convention center brings in approximately $3 billion in economic impact for Central Florida each year, the venue’s communications manager said.