How GSCs and Exhibit Companies Are Helping to Construct Makeshift Hospitals

April 2, 2020

The phrase “all hands on deck” has never been more appropriate for this unprecedented time in history, and general service contractors and exhibit companies are stepping up to the plate. Here’s how companies like T3 Expo, Fern Expo, Display America, GES and Willwork Global Event Services are giving back, using their resources at hand to support the work of FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers, and local and state agencies to help others get through this unimaginable crisis with makeshift hospitals and testing centers.

T3 Expo

The team behind this general service contractor knows every square inch of Javits Center—expertise that came in very handy as the company began using its traditional journey mapping and floor-plan knowledge to help create exam rooms within the convention center when it opened as a temporary hospital this week.

When they got the call from Javits two weekends ago, there was no time to wait: “By Saturday afternoon, [we had] developed preliminary floor plans, renderings, production plans and pricing,” says Chris Valentine, CEO. Just two days later, they were notified they’d be moving forward on this project. The first phase opened March 26, and phase two was handled by GES to support the potential demand at the center. (T3 thought that it was important to spread out the work, according to company officials.) Javits Center is supplying the labor, as they always do, says Valentine, including carpenters, electricians and plumbers to make it possible.

“The fact that the Javits staff, T3 staff and various union members are willing to participate in this effort are a testament to the great people in our industry,” he adds. “This is truly going above and beyond to help our collective community.” 

Fern Expo

“Simply put, we have the equipment that is needed to provide the support; we have employees ready and willing to do the work; and we have the warehousing space to utilize for staging and prep work as needed,” says Jim Kelley, vice president of marketing for Fern. “Those three core resources are currently sitting idle, and coming up with solutions related to the creation of temporary healthcare facilities and other public safety usage was not that big of a leap.”

That’s why Fern has had its general managers in regular communication with the venues in their respective local and regional markets to offer them comprehensive solutions that include partitions and wall systems, furnishings, graphics, crowd control systems, labor and warehousing—effectively the same products they provide customers under normal circumstances. The company has also partnered with EventEQ/LMG to add audio and video conference offerings for larger venues.

“As we take the journey to recovery, the victories and gains may be small, but they are progress,” Kelley adds.'

Updated April 9: Fern Expo has been contracted to provide at least 1,000 temporary rooms for the conversion of the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Ohio to a medical facility. In addition, Fern is constructing screening rooms outside Seattle for Boeing employees to be tested and scanned daily as they report to work; and in Louisville, the company is working with Baptist Hospital to sub-divide existing space to increase patient capacity.

Display America

As the COVID-19 situation got closer to home and Display America’s offices went virtual, owner Carlos Quinones tried to think of ways they could help the community. After some team huddles, they came up with the concept of temporary emergency structures. “As business owners, we can’t wait for the government to do it all—we all need to find ways to do our part and help,” Quinones says.

While following guidance from public health officials and government agencies, DA is primed to give back through equipping local medical facilities with emergency modular structures, informational kiosks, signage, logistics or a simple call for moral support, according to company officials. “We’re confident that in these very difficult times, our company and industry is still capable of lending a hand to local communities,” Quinones adds.

As of press time, DA has been in communication with FEMA, the Army Corps, the Department of Homeland Security, the Office of Emergency Management in Florida and Georgia, and others, working around the clock to provide agencies with information on what DA has to offer. Also added to its product lineup this week: N95 surgical masks, safety goggles, gowns and gloves.


Over the course of nine days, GES has worked with National Health Services in London to convert international exhibition center ExCel London into NHS Nightingale Hospital. Teams spent more than 38,000 hours creating one of the world’s largest ICU facilities, which now has 3,700 beds equipped with ventilators and oxygen. 

“Exceptional circumstances demand an exceptional response, and GES is incredibly honored to support the NHS and its partners in this way,” said Jason Stead, GES’ managing director for EMEA. 

GES supported the project with flooring, stand/bay partition and build, and electrical installation, while Blitz, a GES company, provided audiovisual infrastructure to facilitate daily briefings and support team communications.

Updated April 9: GES has also partnered with three other organizations to help during this time of great need. The company supported the Javits Center team to help expand its medical station, coordinating logistics and installation for an additional 900 patient rooms and 28 nurses' stations. At McCormick Place in Chicago, GES helped to support construction of a temporary hospital of 2,250 patient rooms. Finally, the company also helped in the activation of the Edmonton EXPO Centre in Canada as a temporary day programming facility for the city's homeless population.

Willwork Global Event Services

Updated April 9: When Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced Baltimore Convention Center would transform exhibit space into medical stations for patients recovering from COVID-19, Willwork Global Event Services hit the ground running to support the efforts. This is just one of many ways the Boston-based general service contractor based is transitioning its event production expertise into areas where fast help is needed.

"We've been aggressively seeking ways to apply our time and talent in support of alternative care operations being set up across the country," says Dave King, president of Willwork. "Partnering with the state of Maryland to build a temporary hospital facility is a perfect fit for our operation and is in line with multiple other projects we are working on across the country."

According to local news reports, the Baltimore alternative care facility is expected to open by April 24.

Does your company have news to share on how you’re helping with hospital buildouts? Please share it with us by emailing Kelsey Ogletree,


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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.