Skip to content
An Illustration of the Dallas, Texas skyline at sunset.

Illustration by iStock, Security Management.

Redesigning in Dallas

The year was 1964. The Beatles were on their first world tour. And they decided to stop in Dallas, Texas, for a 30-minute set at the Memorial Auditorium.

“The auditorium felt so huge,” recalled Pattie Davidson in an interview with The Dallas Morning News about her first concert experience at the auditorium. “It seemed so humongous. By today’s standards, it’s not, but back then, to me, it was.”

While Dallas looks very different today than it did when Paul, George, Ringo, and John made their first visit, the Memorial Auditorium, now part of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center still looks relatively the same. That’s because the arena, built in 1957, has never been renovated, so it doesn’t include many modern conveniences or security and operational amenities—like a fire suppression system.



Security and Surveillance Solutions Like No Other

At GSX 2023, Hanwha Vision is showcasing an array of new products and solutions in Booth #3123 in Artificial Intelligence (AI) Hanwha stands at the forefront of AI innovation and will demonstrate new uses of AI in PTZ and Q series cameras, delivering precise detection, robust search capabilities, elevated data analysis, and enhanced image quality. Also on display will be FLEX AI technology machine learning which helps our cameras continually learn to recognize key objects for more efficient operation.

But that’s all about to change as Dallas voters approved in November 2022 a $3.7 billion plan to build a new convention center and renovate the auditorium by 2028.

This new convention center will be big—as most things in Texas are. Plans include creating 800,000 square feet of exhibit space, 260,000 square feet of breakout space, 170,000 square feet of ballroom space, and a newly renovated arena and theater. To put that into perspective, a regulation soccer field is approximately 81,000 square feet.

The new convention center will be the hub around which new restaurants, hotels, and night life venues will operate to reconnect downtown Dallas. It’ll also include greenspace—such as a rooftop garden—and relocated light rail station (the DART) to make it more efficient to travel to.

“The expansion of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center Dallas is more than the renovation or reconstruction of a convention center,” said Rosa Fleming, City of Dallas’ executive director of convention and event services, in a press release after the approval. “It is an opportunity to re-envision downtown Dallas, reconnecting downtown to its southern neighborhoods and ensuring growth in the retail, restaurant, and housing sectors. In short, the project is a long-term economic development initiative for the city that will resonate for years to come.”

As plans to renovate, expand, and build new portions of the convention center move forward, this is a key moment for security stakeholders to gain a seat at the table to help influence choices and ensure security is integrated into the final project design.

To help give security practitioners the tools to participate in this process, four security and design experts—Rene Rieder, Jr., CPP, PSP, security practice leader, Burns Engineering; J. Kelly Stewart, president and CEO, Newcastle Consulting, LLC; Mark Schreiber, CPP, president and principal consultant, Safeguards Consulting; and Rick Lavelle, AIA, PSP, principal architect and owner, Creador Architecture LLC—led a two-day workshop ahead of GSX 2023 at the Kay Bailey convention center. Their program, “Facility Security Design: A Strategic Approach,” taught attendees methods for completing cost-effective facility security designs and designing a fully integrated physical security program.

On the first day of the course, the presenters focused on covering the phases of a project, including conducting risk assessments, and providing attendees with a lexicon in project management and construction phases.

On the second day, Timothy Wood, CPP, director of safety and security at OVG360, which manages the Kay Bailey, met with attendees to talk about how the convention center is used, security and operational challenges with the existing design, and opportunities for improvement with the new convention center plans.

For instance, more than 1 million people visit the Kay Bailey each year to attend conventions, meetings, concerts, athletic competitions, and more. Even though the convention center will be undergoing major construction, Wood says it will remain open for business and continue to hold shows. This will allow business to continue but will likely create some challenges as construction crews begin their work—potentially shutting off streets, impeding freight delivery, and changing the general traffic flow of the area.

At GSX 2023, for example, more than 1.2 million pounds of freight were delivered to the Kay Bailey for part of the initial set-up for the conference. Staging the arrival of trucks carrying this freight and unloading them in a timely fashion is a major concern. That’s one reason that Wood says they are exploring some virtual freight staging solutions, such as those used at the Javits Center in New York City.

To illustrate some of the concepts outlined on day one, Wood also led a tour around the convention center. Attendees were asked to “put your consultant hat on” to provide feedback on security features at Kay Bailey and how they would improve them.

For instance, there are several streets that run underneath the current convention center, as well as a DART station and a Pacific Union rail line. There are sidewalks alongside these streets to allow pedestrians to access the DART station or walk from one side of the convention center to the other outside. But poor lighting combined with a tunnel under a large building creates an ominous feeling, which might discourage people from walking through the area because they perceive it to be unsafe.

This is one reason why as part of the construction process, the DART station will be moved to another area that will not require people to walk through a tunnel, Wood explained.

Wood also pointed to a problem of people parking unauthorized vehicles near the convention center—such as a U-Haul truck parked outside an entrance. Attendees suggested instead of relying on an individual to identify an unauthorized vehicle parked or lingering near the convention center, a video management software (VMS) could be used to automatically flag when a vehicle is parked outside the convention center. Security staff could then be alerted to inspect the vehicle and either alert the police or have it towed.

In breakout sessions after the tour, attendees were asked to complete an exercise of acting as a consultant team hired to help develop the security design of the next convention center.

They floated several ideas, including improved lighting on the exterior of the convention center, a visible credentialing system, and roving security patrols to increase the feeling of security people might have while working and walking in the area.

Schreiber also explained that it’s important to make sure your designs align with operations. Before making the recommendation to install more video surveillance cameras in the convention center, for instance, security practitioners should decide if those cameras are going to be actively monitored by security staff or used as a tool to collect video for evidentiary purposes—forensic surveillance.

Ultimately, the session organizers planned to gather the attendees’ suggestions on security improvements and enhancements to share them with the Kay Bailey team to potentially be incorporated into the new convention center design.

And because they will follow the process outlined in the course, the recommendations will all be functional requirements. This means they’ll be “applicable whether it’s built today or in 2030,” Lavelle adds.

Looking for more GSX sessions on security and design? Attend “Securing Our Future: An Open Discussion of Security in the Data Center World” on Tuesday at 11:45 a.m. CT.

Want more resources on security, construction, and design? Check out “Drafting a Blueprint for Security,” “How to Build a Better Security Space,” and “Growing a Sense of Ownership with CPTED.”

Megan Gates is the editor-in-chief of Security Technology and the GSX Daily, which is published by Security Management. Connect with her at [email protected] or on LinkedIn. Follow her on Twitter and Threads: @mgngates.