Adaptability and Reinvention

The Minneapolis Convention Center has creatively adjusted to continue serving the community and be a resource for Minneapolis and beyond.

February 24, 2021

Working from home. Distance learning. Digital and hybrid events. Zoom meetings. Virtual happy hours.

If the past year taught us anything, it was the importance of adaptability. Ever-changing circumstances and the uncertainty of what the future holds forced us to adjust, pivot, and reinvent how we live, work and play.

For the largest convention center in the Upper Midwest, adaptability and reinvention have been vital parts of the venue’s operations over the last 11 months. Because COVID-19 restrictions have limited the size and scope of events that can be held, the Minneapolis Convention Center (MCC) has shifted its focus to serving the community in new and unique ways while continuing to be a resource for Minneapolis and beyond. Instead of shutting off the lights and locking the doors, the convention center continued to host events and groups that are distinctive in the building’s 30-year history.

Perhaps the most notable example of the MCC’s adaptability and reinvention came in early September 2020 when a portion of the 1.6 million square-foot venue was utilized as an absentee ballot distribution, drop-off and processing site for the 2020 election.

In a city where absentee ballot use in 2020 was up more than 180% from 2016, a large space was needed to process the volume of ballots while safely distancing elections workers. For over two months, Minneapolis Elections & Voter Services used areas in the MCC to help address the significant increase in early voting.

“I believe we have a responsibility to positively impact our community,” MCC Executive Director Jeff Johnson said. “Playing an important role in the election was our opportunity to continue to serve our community in a different way than ever before. We’re proud of the work we did to assist the city during election season.”

As election workers were moving out of the MCC in early November, health care professionals were moving in. On Nov. 9, the State of Minnesota and Vault Health opened a COVID-19 testing site at the convention center, offering free saliva tests seven days a week for any Minnesotan who believed they needed to be tested.

“The Minneapolis Convention Center offers access to thousands of people in the heart of the metro,” said Dan Huff, Minnesota Department of Health assistant commissioner for health protection. “We hope this increased access to testing will help people learn if they are positive for COVID-19 and to isolate when necessary.”

Between 1,000 and 2,400 people per day have visited the MCC to get tested, and the site remains open today.

“We’re all about service at the MCC,” Johnson added. “No matter the circumstances, our mission is to provide outstanding customer service, whether that customer is a meeting planner, a convention attendee or the Minnesota Department of Health. In this time of need, we’re honored to serve the greater community in the fight to get through the pandemic.”

Serving the greater community took on added significance for the MCC in late May when civil unrest following the death of George Floyd necessitated the full deployment of the Minnesota National Guard. The MCC was asked to serve as a staging area. The Guard’s stay at the facility was short, but it served as the first example in 2020 of how the MCC could serve the community during an unprecedented time in the city’s history.

The MCC’s flexibility and role as a community resource continues in 2021. It has been tapped to be a COVID-19 vaccine site, demonstrating once again its adaptability and reinventing what it means for a convention center to serve the community.

Click here to read about how MCC workers brought their experience in hospitality and customer service to new roles across the city in 2020 while the pandemic put a pause on hosting meetings and events.