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Grounds Department: The Caretakers of San Diego's Premier Venue

The San Diego Convention Center has a team of specialists who work both at the front of the house and behind-the scenes to maintain our iconic building's aesthetic.

They are a team of seven hardworking individuals who spend their days ensuring that our building is looking its best. You'll spot them by their trusty, brown uniforms, distinguishing them from other departments. They have fun nicknames for each member of the team.

"It's a good team dynamic because everyone has their own individual knowledge," said Jeremy Johnson. "It works out well, if something needs to be done, one of us usually knows how to do it. Sometimes we are all working somewhere separately, other times we're all on one project and the amount of work that gets done is incredible."

From Left: Jeremy Johnson and Artemio Buenrostro install a new irrigation controller.

The Grounds Department is in charge of the entire convention center's greenery. They get to use all kinds of equipment, wear harnesses while trimming hard-to-reach plants and they even have beekeeping suits! However, their responsibilities have more depth than you may think. They oversee 14 irrigation controllers, manage storm-water movement and are the specialists we call for any hazardous waste removal.

"Every day our job is to take care of the plants and the grounds," said Doug Myers. "The five of us who get here at 4:30am do an outside cleaning of the building. We sweep the entire building, someone runs the sweeper the other four have backpack blowers. Then after that, we will go into our projects for that day."

Eduardo Gonzalez trims the ficus wall with a boom lift.

Another huge part of the Grounds Department is Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM is a strategy to minimize the need for pesticides by using alternative methods of long-term pest prevention. If pesticides are required, they are selected and applied in a manner that minimizes risk.

"IPM is a whole system of avoiding pesticide usage while still managing the problems," said Myers.  "We use many techniques to keep pests under control without using pesticides. The less chemicals you're dumping in the ground, the better for the environment."

West Terrace Planters

Sometimes Grounds takes on big projects. One project we were glad to have their help with is the renovation of the convention center's West Terrace Planters.

The first step was the demolition, in which the material from the planters was removed. All of the uprooted foliage was recycled. Next step was installing the waterproofing, which took about 30 days and is warrantied for the next 20 years. The last step was the reinstallation, and an estimated 50 semi-trucks worth of soil was hauled in to fill all of the planters.

The Grounds Department assisted the contractors with the project, taking over for parts of the work and bringing some of the labor costs in-house. In addition, our in-house painters added a fresh coat to the amphitheater vine enclosures.

"The new planters follow the layout of the plants from when the building was first constructed," said Donald Bottger, Director of Facility Services. "Over the years, we've added trees and birds of paradise, but with this renovation we're starting fresh by going back to the original design. This includes restoring the vines that hang above the Mezzanine level."

This renovation is the first step of updating all of the concrete planters in the Phase I building over the next few years.  The bayside view on our terraces is an important part of our customers' experience, as well as an area that is open to the public and part of the access-way to the Embarcadero.

See more photos from the renovation, and the completed project below.

Since 1989 we've been the region's premier gathering place, and our reliable Grounds Department has been fundamental to our success.

Alec Church's picture
Posted by Alec Church, on April 16, 2018

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