Portable air conditioners ranging in capacity from 42,200 to 77,500 Btuh were used to cool the 475,000-sq-ft Xcel Energy Center during the Republican National Convention.


The 2008 Republican National Convention, held September 1-4, 2008, was an event of epic proportions. It took 40 days to transform 475,000 sq ft of space at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN from an NHL hockey arena and concert venue into a convention hall.

More than 500 workers were brought in to remove 3,000 seats, build workspace for the staff and media, and prepare the site for the 45,000 participants. Included was the installation of 12 miles of high-capacity fiber optic line; 25 miles of voice, data, and coaxial cable and 135 miles of copper wiring for the 500 commercial TV stations broadcasting from the Xcel Center.

Freeman, an event logistics and decorating company based out of Dallas, was hired to oversee the convention operations. One of the tasks assigned to Ralph Tufaro, director of operations for Freeman, included reconfiguring 30 suites surrounding the main concourses into temporary media broadcast facilities for national news networks including Fox News Channel, ABC, NBC, and CBS.

Packing an entire television studio into these small spaces, some no larger than 800 sq ft created an interesting challenge. These rooms were tightly packed with lights, sound, video cameras, and other electronic equipment that would emit tremendous amounts of heat. A solution was needed that would mitigate the heat problem, take up very little space, and (since live broadcasts were going to be made from these rooms) would make the least amount of noise.

Based on a referral from the Xcel Energy Center, Tufaro called on Scott Bjorklund technical field representative for TEMP-AIR, Inc. (Burnsville, MN), a provider of temporary, portable heating, cooling, dehumidifying, and air filtration services. Using its line of TOPAZ portable air conditioners, TEMP-AIR installed a system of supplemental cooling comprising 23 THPAC-5 portable air conditioners, each rated at 77,500 Btuh; two THPAC-3 portable air conditioners, each rated at 42,200 Btuh; 85 20 in. x 25 ft poly vinyl flexible duct; and 21 14 in. x 25 ft poly vinyl flexible duct.

Additional spaces

In another part of the facility, using the repurposed Zamboni storage area underneath the arena’s main seating tier, temporary offices for House Republican leader John Boehner (R-OH) and senior Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) were constructed, as well as “cloakrooms,” or private lounges, for the House, Senate, and gubernatorial attendees.

The rooms were completed with walls and ceilings, but because they were temporary facilities, these spaces did not have their own A/C controls. Dan Lewakowski, project manager for Freeman, had these requirements for the storage area,

“We needed a 5-ton unit for each of the cloakrooms, and the footprint needed to be 3 ft x 4 ft on the plan. We also needed access to each unit, plus we needed to put in an air return register in two of the panels. For the two offices, we planned to use one 3-ton unit that would handle both.”

Because each room was shaped differently, and each news studio had their own requirements, each setting needed its own unique solution. Some requested construction of temporary closets to house the A/C units for easy access inside the room. Some asked that the A/C be ducted through the ceiling into the middle of the space.

The Xcel Energy Center asked that TEMP-AIR duct out the condenser heat using the facility’s existing permanent ductwork. In one instance, flexible ductwork was hung from the ceiling, across the main concourse hallway, and into one of the unused concession stands in order to access the building’s exhaust system.

Because the suites required a high level of sound control, some of the news stations asked for installation of temporary, insulated walls and acoustical ductwork. Additionally, the TOPAZ line of portable air conditioners was specifically chosen for this application because the 3- to 5-ton units can operate between 67 and 71 dB, the lowest decibel level for this size of industrial, portable air conditioner.

Tufaro summed up his thoughts on the service that TEMP-AIR provided, “My main contact, Scott Bjorklund, was always available and stayed with us throughout the event. As you can imagine, we had many obstacles to overcome - from getting the power in and the hot air out to keeping up with emptying the condensate tanks while security was at its peak. TEMP-AIR did not miss a beat.” ES