A quick run around the BPPH

  (and later, a more in-depth one)

  Mid-November 2018: With the decision finally made to move the con to the Boston Park Plaza, I decided to combine an independent "refresher" look at it with heading down through town for some hiking in the Blue Hills.  Also to investigate truck routes in and out of the area from I-93.  I pulled into the "commercial loading area" along Columbus Ave, grabbed the camera, and took a quick whirlwind blitz around the premises -- just to remind myself about the layout that I hadn't seen in ten years, and research some initial tech/logistics info.

The reasonable truck-legal route in seems to be via the South Station exit like when heading to Southie, but go *straight* out of the ramp, down a ways, and right onto Kneeland St.  It goes one-way the wrong way before the hotel, forcing traffic to hop one block north before coming down behind the hotel on Columbus.  Leaving seems to work by hooking around the little park on a cut-through to Stuart, which feeds back onto Kneeland going east.  It's all fairly direct; the downside is that traffic through that entire stretch is *very* slow and screwed-up by a slew of badly-timed lights.  That day I left going south, so I didn't look at the route to north 93 but it's marked fairly well.

[Images are linked to larger copies.]
View along street, mostly valet area View down the length of the building, looking eastward.  I believe that most of the empty area up to the orange cones is where the valet folks buffer cars in and out, and they are traditionally *very* possessive of that space.  Hopefully more of it will be usable for temporary loadin/loadout parking.  The normal loading area is around the far canopy visible just above the FedEx van.

The dark strip above the sidewalk is a narrow gridwork fire escape outside the main ballroom floor, with some openable doors on that side.  Long objects that won't fit in the freight elevators can get passed up and down there, such as the 12 ft lighting pipes we used to rent in.

Freight elevators Freight elevators -- the one on the right was just opening its doors.  That one is the only one that goes upstairs to ballroom level.  There's a token attempt at the clear plastic wind-damper strips across the opening to the street, but not surprisingly, some of it seems to be missing.

These elevators used to have a hotel-provided human operator many years ago, but have been updated with buttons and auto-leveling.  You should still make sure to close the doors when finished with it, or it won't be callable from other floors.

Load-in path, hallway from freight elevator One floor up, the elevator opens into a hallway that leads toward the main ballroom, entering at house right next to the stage.  The floor is now concrete, as opposed to the nasty worn-out red carpeting that used to be here.  As with many such spaces it is also used for some storage, so it may have to be cleared a bit before load-in.

Long view of main ballroom Long shot of the ballroom, from balcony level at house left rear.  The loading doorway is visible under the farthest balcony on the other side.  The original big chandeliers are still in place, I was glad to see.  The hotel's renovation seems to have included permanently installed LED wash units shooting up the pillars, so we should ask about control for those.  I couldn't tell if this little Smartfade lighting board setup was for that, or brought in for some event in the space.  The light in the room was generally quite purple from the way they happened to be set when I came through, especially on balcony level.

In general the color theme of the room is now a colder gray than the warmer tones from the last refurb cycle, and the carpeting is a deep blue.

Arisia 2006 was really kind of a high point as far as lighting and other tech in this space, and in all the intervening time I had not removed any of the design and related material I put on the net at the time.  The lighting design documents still show the basics of the space, and I remembered that I have an additional two pictures from that year showing more of the ballroom and how we used it back then.

Twistlock outlet and stringer Some of the major power hookups have not changed over the years!  They're still using the old twistlock outlets to bring two or three circuits out via stringers that can be plugged in.  There's one of these on every pillar in the ballroom balcony bays, on the side away from the stage.  I actually still have custom 3-circuit breakout adapters with L21-30 plugs for these, that I put together back in the day because the hotel engineering folks didn't have enough of them.

Power panel on back of pillar The updated power panels that were installed in the mid-oughties seem to be unchanged.  Some of these have Camlok outputs with disconnects as well as breakers for the twistlock circuits.  *Way* back in the day these used to be open copper bus-bar cabinets, that engineering staff had to physically tie power tails into.  [Who else remembers "Sparky the electrician" and his Wrench of Doom??]  In general, the main ballroom has *lots* of power available.

Backstage left Backstage right
Backstage left and right, respectively.  The floor has apparently been re-done in hardwood and looks in decent shape.  The wheezy old pipe on hemp lines that we used to hang the cyc on is still there, and probably still usable.  There also appears to be a grey or light lavender traveler upstage, which might be a suitable backdrop on its own if it closes full-width.  Overhead are the same ancient strip-light fixtures that have always been there, albeit hard to see any detail of them here.

Same old mess at downstage right The rats-nest of dusty old wiring at downstage right seems to be largely unchanged, albeit possibly with some new stuff run through.  The glass panel behind the flag is a half-tinted window through which the house can be seen, presumably for a stage manager to watch through.  On our later visit (below) we found that the old Arisia-TV coaxial cable to the headend is *still in place* from 13 years ago.

Ramp up to backstage left Back in the hallway near the freight elevator, there's an odd metal ramp up to backstage left.  I think this used to be a staircase.  It's still too steep for ADA compatibility, I think.  And it looks like PSAV keeps some of their truss tucked in next to it.

Ben has some other pictures from around the ballroom area, hosted here, from the same weekend.

Ballroom lift entry The ballroom now has an ADA lift to the house-left balcony.  This is its entry; there's a small ramp to get up into it, maybe a 3 - 4 inch rise.

Lift is rated for 750 pounds The lift is rated for 750 pounds, and I don't quite get why there's a "no freight" warning if one is careful about gear weight limits.

Storage closet off rear of ballroom B I went through a storage closet at the rear house-right corner of the ballroom's "B" section.  Plenty of tables and chairs.

Renovated mezzanine hallway I took a quick orbit around the mezzanine level to find a restroom before heading out.  This has also been "modernized" with cooler color tones, more blue theme carpet, and glass railings intead of the old more "Italianate" style.  They at least preserved many of the traditional gold-leaf touches, but now they almost seem out of place.

  With the car parked semi-illegally and still powered up, I didn't spend too long in the building and shortly headed out to continue down to my hike.  But just before pulling away, I was able to conveniently witness some instructive loading activity next to me.

Liftgate misalignment with sidewalk A guy came out and pulled a box truck forward about five feet and stopped, just to try and line up his liftgate with the sidewalk a little better.  The crew needed to load a heavy stack of truss bases or the like and a few other items.  Even with the forward shift, it's clear that the gate platform didn't line up very well, and they had to sort of lever the dolly onto it one end at a time using a hand truck as a pry bar.  This is how logistics gets done at this place -- no dock, just street-level loading and having to dodge the general public across the sidewalk to the elevator opening.

Box truck length vs. street width Their truck looked about like the 26-footers we rent, and in the position they had it, it was nosed out into street fairly far but still left plenty of room for other vehicles to get by.  It's technically one-way in the direction of view here, so cars aren't trying to squeeze past in both directions.  Once they were done loading a few items, the driver backed it up again, even with the sidewalk, to leave more room in front.

Really, he could have taken another three feet forward to land just the tip of the liftgate on the curb, and then they could have done a straight roll-on -- like we've usually done at the Windsor storage out of necessity.


Tour 2

  A couple of weeks later, a group of us took a semi-official tech tour of the major production spaces.  Several people took pictures; my collection here is fairly small but there are more in Paul's set including when he toured the hotel's cable-TV headend upstairs and confirmed ballroom connectivity to still be intact. 

Camlok output on ballroom balcony pillars Two out of the four pillars down each side of the ballroom balcony have sets of cam outputs, 200A apiece. 

Misc electrics downstage left My circuit numbers are still visible
There's another older set of camloks at downstage left, probably only 100A, along with a subpanel and a handful of Edison circuits that it feeds.  The really amusing thing was discovering that the circuit numbers *I* had written on the boxes in purple Sharpie a dozen years ago are still here.

Scary plugs and wiring feeding strip-lights The old incandescent strip-lights are fed three circuits apiece, via some *really* scary-looking old plugs into high-mounted wall sockets.  They probably haven't moved in fifty years.

House lighting control prests screen The new house lighting control appears to be an ETC architectural type of system, and retains the original names of the rooms even though they're now referred to as "Grand" A and B.  The LED pillar-wash units have been added to this system as well.  The fake-3D treatment of the touch areas makes them harder to read.  Early rumors are that a remote control of some sort is available, but still tethered on a wire.  Sort of odd considering that the little dark windows underneath are for an infrared interface of some sort.

Guess I could take down that old text file about the previous system now, couldn't I?  But it's kinda fun to keep around as an example of bad design.

Risers stored under stage Risers for the rooms are conveniently stored under the stage itself.  Note the mousetraps, too...

Camloks in Avenue 34 / Loft space We also took a brief run around the new "Avenue 34" space that replaced a restaurant, one level down from the main ballrooms.  It also sports at least one set of cams and several of the 30A twistlock sockets.

The hotel's rhetoric about this space is amusing -- "uniquely sophisticated expression of the urban experience with a loft-like vibe" ... okay, sure, whatever.  Hopefully we'd be able to match it efficiently to Arisia's needs.

_H*   181119, 181201