Prominent Democrats and 8,000 Square Feet of Plasma Take Center Stage at Denver's Pepsi Center

By Michael O'Connell August 25, 2008, 4:54 PM EDT

The Democratic National Convention's 70-foot-wide stage featuring 8,000 square feet of plasma video screen and a retractable podium.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Democratic National Convention officially kicks off this afternoon at Denver’s Pepsi Center with a call to order by Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean at 3:00 p.m. Mountain Standard Time. And attention won’t just fall on the party’s most recognizable faces or presumptive nominee Barack Obama, but rather a 70-foot-wide stage overseen by returning convention producer Ricky Kirshner.

Officials anticipate upwards of 50,000 delegates, politicos, members of the press, and protestors over the course of the four-day convention. But don’t expect them all to squeeze into the Pepsi Center at once. Given the arena's typical capacity of around 18,000, workers removed more than one quarter of the arena’s seats (5,000) to accommodate the massive stage and surrounding areas for media.

The Rocky Mountain News reports that it took 600 workers to lay 31,000 square feet of carpet, hang 700 lights from the ceiling, and build the stage made from 70 percent reusable or recycled materials. Highlights of the massive construction include three 103-foot plasma video screens (covering 8,000 square feet) that shoot up from the back of the stage like giant ribbons and the central podium that will play host to everything but Obama’s Thursday night acceptance of the nomination, which will be held at Invesco Field. The retractable podium is capable of adopting any of the American flag’s colors, including DNC blue, and adjusts to the height of the many speakers.

As for what’s taking place at the podium, the lineup for tonight’s opening festivities includes remarks from Jesse Jackson Jr., Senator Claire McCaskill, Michelle Obama, and a special tribute to ailing senator and party icon Edward M. Kennedy by his niece, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg. Though Kennedy is in Denver, it’s unclear at the moment whether he will speak at the convention or appear in a pre-recorded video.

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