TCF Manager Honored for Accomplishments at COVID Alternate Care Facility

April 6, 2021

As manager of engineering services at Detroit’s TCF Center, Al Vasquez is typically responsible for directing and managing the maintenance of the venue’s buildings, grounds, equipment and utilities. He works to keep the facility compliant with local building codes and Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations while assisting customers with their facilities requirements. But in the spring of last year, when the COVID-19 pandemic was first hitting cities throughout the U.S., his role at the downtown venue took on a whole new level of importance and urgency.

On March 30, 2020, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the FEMA responded to the crisis by designating TCF Center as a temporary alternate care facility, designed to relieve the burden on local hospitals treating patients with COVID-19.

Opened on April 9, 2020, the 1,000-bed TCF Regional Care Center was constructed in the venue’s exhibit halls by facility workforce and union labor in just nine days, under budget and managed by Vasquez. With guidance from FEMA and other officials, the site was designed in the most efficient way possible to allow the convention center to resume normal operations when safe to do so. 

According to TCF officials, Vasquez went above and beyond to improve patient care at the site, designing a central patient oxygen supply system and modifying the building’s HVAC system to provide negative pressure. This helped mimic a hospital system to accelerate healing and give doctors and patients a sense of security.


Vasquez’s incredible accomplishments at the alternate care facility were recently honored with four national and state awards and medals, including a Challenge Coin awarded by the Michigan National Guard; the Legion of Merit medal awarded by the State of Michigan; a Challenge Coin awarded by Keith Kroupfreiter on behalf of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, and a Challenge Coin awarded from Dr. David Strong, on-site medical lead at the TCF Regional Care Center.  

“We couldn’t be happier that Al’s diligence in supporting the complete physical, mental and social well-being of each employee and visitor has been recognized by these state and federal agencies,” said Greg DeSandy, TCF Center interim general manager. “The TCF Center team has often been heard commending Al’s leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic and the community-based initiatives in the center. 

He continued, “He is passionate about helping the community in every way possible while events are on hold in the venue and people in Detroit struggle in so many ways to maintain their health and survive.”

Prior to his 12 years at TCF Center, Vasquez gained facilities management experience with Johnson Controls, Inc., St. Joseph Mercy Health System and the University of Michigan. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Ferris State University and is a Certified Energy Manager.

While the temporary alternate care facility was paused on May 15 and later decommissioned and dismantled on Dec. 30, Vasquez is continuing to help the convention center serve its community during the pandemic. On Jan. 13, TCF Center became a designated vaccination distribution site for the city of Detroit, with drive-through vaccine administration ongoing in the venue’s Atwater Garage, distributing 4,700 doses a day to eligible Detroit residents.

To ensure healthy air quality in the garage, Vasquez designed a fan exhaust system to keep the garage properly ventilated. He and his team monitor CO levels with 48 sensor readings that signal the team to turn on the required sequence of 17 variable-speed exhaust fans. A 12- by 12-foot video monitor with mapped locations of all CO sensors and exhaust fans is located in the engineering control room and watched by team members in real-time.

While the OSHA rating for acceptable CO levels in a garage is between 25-100 PPM, the TCF Center engineering team makes adjustments in areas reading CO at 4-12 PPM to. Warning texts are sent to all team members for immediate modification if necessary.

According to TCF officials, additional space for second shot distributions is currently being planned at the facility, with the intention to administer an additional 2,000 shots daily, starting the week of March 22. And of course, Vasquez will be right there in the middle of it, helping to design the floor plan and a ventilation system to ensure the health and wellbeing of patients and staff.

“Al exemplifies the best of TCF Center,” said Patrick Bero, CEO and CFO of the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority. “His diligence and dedication, all hours of the day and night, exceed customer expectations and inspires all of our staff and management.”


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