Locking Down the Wisconsin Exposition Center

April 12, 2005
Door security plan at expo center addresses accessibility and life safety

As the centerpiece of a renovation program for the Wisconsin State Fair Park, the $36-million state-of-the-art Exposition Center was built to offer all the amenities that show producers, event managers, exhibitors and consumers expect from an exposition facility under one roof. The 300,000-square-foot building features the state's largest exhibit hall and can accommodate 1,050 standard 10' x 10' booths, with more than 200,000 square feet of exhibit space. The facility is owned and operated by State Fair Park Exposition Center Inc., a private 501-C3 business that coordinates its efforts closely with the Wisconsin State Fair Park on whose grounds it is located.

The building's exhibit space can be divided into three separate halls, the largest of which is more than 85,000 square feet. Separate entrances and box offices make it easy to accommodate many types of multiple events as well as larger trade shows. Since it opened, the Exposition Center has hosted a wide variety of trade shows, consumer shows and many other events of all sizes. Among the larger events held there are the Journal-Sentinel Sports Show, Snowmobile USA Show, the Milwaukee Marine Dealers Association Boat Show, NARI Home Improvement Show, Wisconsin Manufacturing & Machine Tool Expo, and the Wisconsin State Fair event. Other events have included hospitality functions for the Milwaukee Mile race track and various State Fair Park functions.

Doors Doing Double Duty

The facility's focus on functional aesthetics is apparent even in its loading area. Because of Wisconsin's winter climate, it is desirable to limit the time doors are open for loading and minimize the size of the opening. While 10 truck docks and five overhead doors are included for moving large items in and out, additional banks of smaller doors allow flexibility and often make it possible to open a smaller area. At the same time, the doors serve as emergency exits for the exhibit halls. This makes it necessary to provide exit devices, but standard devices would be susceptible to damage from carts and other objects being moved, which could compromise their operation and mar their appearance.

"We do get a lot of cart traffic with exhibitors and food service people," says Patrick Skaggs, vice president of operations, "so the devices can take a beating."

To withstand these conditions, the doors are equipped with recess exit devices featuring a wide pushpad. The recessed devices are also designed to accommodate those with disabilities.

Meeting Accessibility and Life Safety Needs

Although door security is not a major concern during hours of operation, accessibility and life safety are important considerations. The main entrances are all equipped with concealed vertical rod exit devices to provide safe emergency egress. One door of each bank is also equipped with an LCN automatic power door operator and pushbutton actuators to assist persons with disabilities.

Main entrance doors are unlocked during the center's office hours and during events. During other other times, the facility uses a key system to secure the entrances, as well as other doors throughout the facility. The center decided upon an industrial key system with a high security key configuration and patented keyway to help prevent duplication and strengthen key control.

Because the front entrance uses a key system, Skaggs has to keep tight control of the keys.

"I don't issue keys to anyone unless they are staff," says Skaggs. "They sign an agreement that if they lose the key, they are responsible for the cost of rekeying the door."

One door at each location also includes a proximity card reader that actuates an exit device with an electric latch retraction (EL) function. When entrances are locked, authorized individuals can use their cards to gain entry. Skaggs explains that he can also issue cards with restrictions on time and entrance location to show promoters so they can control access when needed for exhibit setup or breakdown.

Information for this report provided by Ingersoll-Rand.