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Convention Center Bookings Double Estimates

Posted September 25, 2007

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— About a year before it is scheduled to open, the new downtown convention center and neighboring hotel have doubled initial booking projections, officials said Tuesday.

Twenty-three conventions have been booked for the first year of operations, and 58 events have been lined up for the second year, officials said. More than 63,600 nights in the four-star, 400-room Marriott hotel next to the convention center have been booked in the first year, they said.

“Room night bookings are 2½ times higher than projected in the first year of operations. Year Two is already at 93 percent of projections, and the booking window on that year remains open," Thomas Hazinski, managing director of HVS International, which developed the business plan for the convention center, said in a statement. "Clearly, you have ramped up your marketing and sales faster than anticipated.”

The largest convention booked so far is the Omega Psi Phi fraternity conclave in July 2010, which could draw up to 10,000 people and is expected to have a $6.5 million impact on the local economy.

"Anytime you have a new facility, you'd like to see it get off to a good start," Mayor Charles Meeker said. "Things are coming along well here, in part because we're centrally located and part because it's a new facility and part because people like coming to Raleigh to go to the restuaraunts and shop and look around town."

Construction on the convention center is 75 percent complete, while the Marriott is about half finished, Meeker said. An underground parking deck that will serve both the convention center and the hotel is about 85 percent finished, he said.

Rising construction costs have pushed the estimated price tag on the 500,000-square-foot convention center to $221 million, or about $41 million more than the original budget.

The convention center will feature 19 meeting rooms and a 32,000-square-foot ballroom.

"This is going to be one of the finest convention centers in the country, no doubt," said Dennis Edwards, president and chief executive of the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau. "The thing that is in our favor – Raleigh has a great reputation for quality of life and a place to do business."

Wake Technical Community College also has entered into a partnership with the convention center, officials said Tuesday. A new program modeled on Walt Disney Co. standards and methods will train students for entry-level jobs in the service industry.

“This facility is the living room of our community, and Wake Tech is proud to be partnering with the convention center to make sure that the hard-working staff here makes every guest and visitor shine,” college President Stephen Scott said in the statement.

Meeker said a week-long grand opening party for the convention center will be held next September, featuring concerts, exhibits and activities throughout the facility.

88 Comments

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  • Steve Crisp Sep 26, 2007

    And finally, let's presume that all those things ou envision actually fall in place. We have 50 to 100 new restaurants in the area. We have thirty new hotels that can accomodate 500 patrons each. We have a major shopping district open up on half of every ground floor of every building in a ten by ten block radius of the CC (which would be about 500 shops, many of them those restaurants.)

    What exactly happens to all those facilities when there is no convetion in town? Do you really expect business people to invest money in something that will only be used to its effective capacity perhaps 25 percent of the time? They will go broke. And even if they don't, where are you going to get all the swing temporary labor from? You're talking about the need for perhaps an additional 15,000 to 30,000 people to staff those businesses at peak. Our unemployment is currently at what, 3,8 percent? Where are all those temps gonna come from? And watcha gonna do with them on the off weeks?

  • Steve Crisp Sep 26, 2007

    5. It can be presumed tha half of all convention goers are gonna go out and party at night. So where are 7,500 people gonna jam? All existing clubs are pretty much packed on the weekends. Are we just going to tell potential convention hosts that they have to either end their meetings on Thursday or be bored over the weekend?

    6. What is there for folks to actually do downtown at night in the absence of entertainment? Go to the museums? That might be nice if they were actually open at night. Go shopping? With the malls closing at 9?

    7. Finally, please explain just how you are going to feed these folks at 1 am? Wings? Pizza delivery? Cook Out? Waffle House or IHOP?

    I mean, have you actually even been to a convention with 15K people and watched the dynamics involved? I just don't think that Raleigh has the mindset to adapt from a 12 hour service day to one of 18 to 20 hours.

    And what happens if someone falls ill at 3 am? All we have to offer is the emergency room. There are no clinics

  • Steve Crisp Sep 26, 2007

    To ncwebguy:

    So answer me some questions. Assume a convention of 15,000 people which is less than what the convention center was supposed to be built to handle in its present configuration.

    1. How do you get those people into RDU? RDU averages 25K per day enplanes and deplanes per day and often is strained to the gills.

    2. How are you gonna get them from RDU to hotel accomodations? We don't have 5 percent the number of cabs or rental cars available to handle a surge of 15K.

    3. Just how does a presumed 2,500 rooms in your vision accommodate 15K people in addition to serving the regular needs of the business, political, and educational communities. And is anyone going to bother coordinating conventions with NCSU home football games?

    4. Once in place, how are you going to feed those 15K people within walking distance of the CC? I would take another 50 restaurants each with a 200 patron capacity to handle that lunch crowd because the existing facilities are packed.

  • ncwebguy Sep 26, 2007

    Why would tearing down Walnut Terrace result in riots? Halifax Court and Chavis Heights were torn down and no riots broke out. Having affordable housing close to downtown is necessary to attract bus/cab/shuttle drivers, hotel support staff, restaurant staff, and other service industry jobs the convention center and office towers will need for support.

    There is a NC giftstore in the Sheraton and a gift shop in the Raleigh City Museum. There will be something similar in the Marriott as well.

    With the additional hotel visitors and condo residents, restaurants and retail will fill in the ground floor spaces throughout downtown. There already is an uptick in restaurants outside the Glenwood South area. That will continue as demand outstrips supply. Places already open with character like Fin, Yancey's, Times Bar, Dos Taquitos, etc. will show convention goers a good time.

  • ncwebguy Sep 26, 2007

    Fetzer's CC "expansion" was too small from the day it was on the drawing board. It served its purpose to make North Raleigh more attractive in comparison. It is in even worse shape infrastructure wise than downtown is, and was never built to handle a convention of any size.

    There will be 1,000 rooms downtown when the Marriott is open, and there are plans to add another 1,500 in the area from Glenwood/Hillsborough through the south end. This does not include building on the empty parking lot due north of the CC, the NCAE complex west of the BTI center, the Key Tire/Firestone block, or several other nearby parcels.

    The block due west of the Convention center (former Sir Walter Chevrolet dealership) was saved for expansion. 15-20 years, it can add the size to host a 25,000+ convetion and more hotels will go up in the warehouse district, south down South Saunders and north along Capitol Blvd.

  • ncwebguy Sep 26, 2007

    Costs would have overrun more than they already did if the city hadn't signed contracts for supplies like steel, concrete, etc. a few weeks before Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. Even before that, costs rose from time the budget was drawn up to the groundbreaking ceremony due to the rise in demand in China, India, etc. for building supplies. That is where the cost overruns came from. If you use the conservative Wake County Taxpayer Assocation's figure of $250 million in the summer of 2005, the convention center is still $29 million *under* budget.

    The occupancy and prepared foods tax was conceived in 1991 by the NC General Assembly to pay for a convention center and other tourist-attracting projects.
    http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/1991/Bills/House/HTML/H703v3.html

    By *law* it can't feed the kids or build new schools.

    While there was several opinon polls conducted, there has not been a referendum for a convention center in Raleigh in at least the last 12 years.

  • BBNKB Sep 26, 2007

    I received an "outstanding" evaluation last year (I'm a City of Raleigh employee) which means I received no raise and a 1.5% cost of living increase. Gee, thanks. Inflation coupled with my 8% health insurance increase means I took a sharp decline this year. Wonder where all the city funds are going.....

  • angel2747 Sep 25, 2007

    This is a response to "melmika" -- I did NOT mean that the schools were to 'fill children's tummies'. I meant simply that there are starving 'homeless' children here in our county. As a nurse, I've taken care of too many of them for anyone to argue with me that we do not have any homeless, starving children in Wake County. That is all I meant. I agree with you that the schools have had to take many parents' responsibility to provide meals for their own children -- when it should be the total responsibility of the parents. These same parents seem to have enough money for other things -- but not to provide their kids with breakfasts and lunches. Sorry if I misled you. As for comments from those who do approve of the new Con Ctr -- I do not disapprove of your right to have your own opinion. Please do not condemn me for mine. If we all agreed in this world, well -- that, too, would be interesting, wouldn't it? But at least we live in a country where we CAN disagree and still get along.

  • Mo Sep 25, 2007

    "$41 M over cost... 18%. Is this the first building built - don't understand how projected costs could be that far off and not anticipated ?"
    It's called China and Dubai...cost of concrete and steel have rised sharply in the last couple of years. So has products made from oil. It impact is being felt in both the public and private sectors.

  • FloydRTurbo Sep 25, 2007

    78 posts before we got the first "It's George Bush's fault" .... some of you are slipping!

    How many more posts before we "make Crystal Mangum pay for the ConvCenter cost overruns ..."?

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