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 New Orleans Fully Restored...As a Corporate Events Destination
In the Shadow of Katrina, BBC Destination Management Helps Northrop
Grumman Christen a Ship to Commemorate September 11th
New Orleans (April 24, 2008) . . . In the shadow of the two great catastrophes to befall the U.S. this decade – the terrorist attacks of September 11th, and Hurricane Katrina -, the christening last month of Northrop Grumman’s ship the New York (LPD21) shows that the Crescent City continues to honor the memories of the two tragedies, even as it demonstrates again that it is “open for business” to sophisticated, complex corporate events.

A Case Study in Resilience and Creativity

On Saturday, March 1, 2008 more than 6,000 people attended a christening event at Northrop Grumman Shipbuilders (NSGB) in New Orleans, to commemorate the christening of the New York (LPD 21 )– a billion dollar, 25,000 ton vessel built by Northrop Grumman, to commemorate the 2,750 people lost in the World Trade Center attacks of September 11, 2001. 

Built into the bow of the New York (LPD 21) is 7.5 tons of salvaged steel from the World Trade Center Tower Two - a true, “living monument.” 

It was the largest event of its kind in New Orleans post-Katrina, and the challenge for local event planning/Destination Management Company (DMC), BBC, was clear: How to commemorate this kind of event publicly, maintaining the solemnity and propriety of the occasion, but demonstrating at the same time the resilience and creativity that has enabled two cities – New York and New Orleans – to rise above the ashes and recreate themselves as centers of commerce and corporate activity.

Anatomy of an Event: A Multi-Dimensional Celebration

Here is an outline of what took place: 

The two day event was sponsored by Northrop Grumman Shipbuilders.

Thousands attended, including corporate executives, local New Orleans personalities and public officials such as Dotty England, sponsor of the ship and wife of Gordon England, America’sDeputy Secretary of Defense; relatives of slain September 11 heroes; representatives of the NY Fire Department and the NY Police Department; U.S. Representative Vito Fossella (D-NY); the USS New York Reunion Group, employees & families of NGSB, and United States veterans groups from the area. 

The program ran for more than two days, and included a plethora of complex events:

Friday, February 29, 2008: Sponsor’s Dinner - seated gala for 650.  Theme:  “New York”. 

The evening began with a cocktail reception in Heritage Park, with a performance by The USO Troupe “Liberty Bells” from NYC.  Upon conclusion of their performance, guests were led to the Sugar Mill next door, in true New Orleans, style via “second line”  parade. 

Guests were led across a red-carpeted replica of the Brooklyn Bridge, estimated at 40 feet tall.  Once inside the Sugar Mill, guests were seated at assigned tables in a corresponding NYC district.  Tables could be found via a “metro” map (table diagram), and the designation of tables was divided into three distinct New York neighborhoods:  The Financial District, the Theatre District, and of course, Central Park. The stage was spectacular with a Lucite replica of the USS New York set against a sparkling backdrop of the New York skyline, also crafted in lucite. Oversized photography featuring buildings in each district complimented the scene, including photography “looking up.” 

Once seated, guests indulged in a three-course dinner with champagne toast.  Prior to concluding the evening’s event, a video was shown which was created by NGSB employees visiting members of the September 11 Families Association in NYC, highlighting stories of the tragic days past & the ship’s mission & her victorious future ahead.

Saturday, March 1, 2008:  In the early morning hours, a VIP-hosted breakfast was provided on the grounds of NGSB; 500-600 guests attended. 
For the Christening ceremony, NGSB was prepared for the attendance of approximately 6,000 guests.  A massive transportation shuttle system (including over 50 motorcoaches, 12 handicap-accessible minis, sedans, SUVs, vans and over 75 staff) was put into place to insure a seamless arrival & departure experience for all guests.  Transportation for all guests was managed by BBC, utilizing ticket decoding for parking reference. From the parking locations, guests boarded designated motor coaches staffed by volunteer bus ambassadors who conducted a full tour of the build site en route to the specially created ceremony platforms at river’s edge.

Along the entire two-mile designated route, all roads were cleared for all NGSB bus transportation by over 20 local & state police, and check points were manned by BBC staff. The remote command center was also equipped with emergency services, portable comfort stations, merchandise sales, information stations, parking attendants, and directional signage.  Upon conclusion of the ceremony, guests were reloaded into their designated buses & returned in the same seamless fashion as their arrival.

Summing up – A Historical and Corporate Event Milestone 

The event was an extraordinary milestone for New Orleans and for BBC Destination Management, which demonstrated once again that New Orleans has “fully arrived” as a destination for the most important corporate events, national in scope, in the aftermath of Katrina. 

In fact, in a “down market” affected by the national recession and a pullback in spending in some corporate meeting departments, the Crescent City provides itself as a truly creative, more cost-effective destination than ever before! 


Michael Frenkel, MFC PR – New York
for BBC Destination Management
(212) 808-6556

Also See: New Orleans Travel Industry's Long Road Back Begins - with an Ironic First Step / October 2005

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