During a typical calendar year, the Edmonton Convention Centre and Edmonton EXPO Centre welcome a combined 1.7 million guests who visit to experience more than 800 yearly events…but 2020 was anything but typical. This year, we saw a reduction of approximately 75-80% of our annual business because of public health restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
The show must go on
Instead of shutting off the lights and closing the doors, we innovated and collaborated. We adapted to this new normal by pivoting our venue operations like never before—we developed industry-leading health and safety protocols, creatively collaborated with our event partners and supported our community during its time of need.
As stewards of two important public venues, we have a responsibility to use our spaces and resources in support of our communities. Never has this been truer than in 2020. Throughout this pandemic, we have seen convention and event venues across Canada step up in similar ways—proving that our value as venues is more than the incredible events that bring people together—we are community partners and neighbours and we rise to the occasion to serve our city and meet its evolving needs.
While it was not the year we had anticipated, 2020 is a year worth remembering. Here are some of our highlights:
Food for good
As events began to postpone and our food and beverage operations winded down to a halt, we were able to gather 8,464 pounds of unused food from the Edmonton Convention Centre and Edmonton EXPO Centre and donate it to the Edmonton Food Bank, the Bissell Centre and the Ronald McDonald House.
Creating community capacity
Over the course of the past 10 months, we have hosted a variety of community organizations seeking to deliver their services in a venue that can accommodate physical distancing. In the spring, the Hallway Café utilized halls ABC inside the Edmonton Convention Centre to prepare hampers for families in need. On December 19, JCI’s Holiday Hamper will use the Edmonton EXPO Centre parking lot as their hub for hamper delivery program. The Red Cross in collaboration with the City of Edmonton and Government of Alberta is in Hall F of the Edmonton EXPO Centre to build PPE care packages for Edmontonians.
Our ongoing commitment to sustainability
In June, the Edmonton EXPO Centre joined the Edmonton Convention Centre in achieving its Climate Smart certification. Now, both venues are steadily working towards reducing our greenhouse gas emissions 30% by 2035 as part of our Greenhouse Gas Reductions Plans.
In July, construction was completed on what is now Canada’s largest building-integrated photovoltaic installation on the Edmonton Convention Centre atrium roof. Approximately 200 megawatt hours of electricity are anticipated to be generated every year by the installation, leading to a reduction of nearly 150,000 kg of yearly greenhouse gas emissions.
A champion of the sporting industry
Throughout 2020, Edmonton EXPO Centre became a hub for professional and amateur sporting organizations needing a practice space large (and safe) enough to accommodate physical distancing. Hall E became home to Canada Basketball’s Men’s 3×3 National Team, Athletics Alberta, Volleyball Alberta and Basketball Alberta. It now features a 60-meter running track, pole vault, three volleyball courts, two basketball courts and two 3×3 basketball courts.
Temporary EXPO shelter
From March to August, the Edmonton EXPO Centre was activated as a temporary day programming and temporary medical isolation facility for Edmontonians experiencing homelessness. Every day, Edmonton EXPO Centre staff would prepare and deliver approximately 2,000 meals to guests, totaling more than 335,000 meals served throughout the duration of the activation.
Supporting the Hive
On August 9, we watched (from afar) as the Edmonton EXPO Centre’s very own Hall D Arena tenants Edmonton Stingers defeated the Fraser Valley Bandits to become the 2020 CEBL Summer Series Champions.
COVID Central Assessment Centre
On September 9, Alberta Health Services opened Edmonton’s largest COVID-19 assessment centre within Hall A of the Edmonton EXPO Centre. The assessment centre is open seven days a week and can administer more than 5,000 COVID-19 tests each day, or 350 people every 30 minutes. At 522,000 square feet, there is no better space in Edmonton more equipped to safely separate assessment centre traffic from other event taking place within the venue.
Edmonton EXPO Centre adapted to public health restrictions by hosting a 11 drive-in style events throughout our 160-acre grounds over the summer and fall months.
On September 29, the Edmonton Convention Centre and Edmonton EXPO Centre announced that we were among the first convention and tradeshow venues in Canada to successfully achieve the GBAC STAR™ Facility Accreditation, which is the cleaning industry’s only outbreak prevention, response and recovery accreditation for facilities. This is in addition to the release of our Healthy Venues Plan, which commits us to being among the safest places to plan and attend events.
On November 1, the Edmonton Convention Centre opened our doors to the City of Edmonton’s temporary pandemic accommodation, creating additional capacity for 300 homeless Edmontonians to be supported by Bissel Centre, Boyle Street Community Services, Mustard Seed and Bent Arrow services. Known by its Cree name Tipinawâw, the space brings shelter from the elements, cold and wind. In addition to managing security operations, maintenance, housekeeping and operational support, our food and beverage team has already prepared and served more than 35,000 meals and continue to pour more than 2,200 cups of coffee every day.
Centres of Excellence
Also in November, we were proud to announce that both the Edmonton Convention Centre and Edmonton EXPO Centre were recognized among the 2021 EXHIBITOR Centers of Excellence. Produced by EXHIBITOR Magazine, the annual award recognizes the top 30 venues for trade shows and events in North America. Our incredible talent, diverse events and our continued commitment to service excellence is recognized and sets our venues apart.
As we say goodbye to an unexpected 2020, we are thankful for our community of guests, partners and staff who have made this a memorable and successful year for the Edmonton Convention Centre and Edmonton EXPO Centre. As 2021 brings a hopeful end to this pandemic, we look forward to the safe return of conventions, tradeshows, concerts and galas. Until then, we are proud to continue to be in service of our community as we navigate unchartered territory together.