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Raleigh Convention Center Looks for Sponsors for Big Opening Bash

Posted February 20, 2008

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— Raleigh’s new convention center is set to open during a celebration on Sept. 5-6, and city leaders spent Wednesday morning soliciting sponsors to help pay for the grand opening.

The city did not announce who will get corporate naming rights to the center's plaza.

In a room full of business leaders and community leaders Wednesday, the message was clear. The convention center is almost complete, and in order to open it in a big way, they need big financial support.

"We need you to step up as we always ask you, and you have done it time and time again for our community," said Wake County Board of Commissioners Chairman Joe Bryan.

When complete, the center will be 500,000 square feet with 19 meeting rooms, a grand ballroom and a four-star, 400 room Marriott hotel next door. It is expected to cost $221 million, and city leaders predict it will quickly become the centerpiece for the downtown district.

“The underscored, italicized, bold type, exclamation point on a downtown renaissance that has been in the making for more than two decades,” said Phil Zachary, president of Curtis Media Group, as he described the new convention center.

A opening celebration will be held Sept. 5-6 in conjunction with "Raleigh Wide Open III" on Fayetteville Street and the Showcase Extravaganza featuring the International Festival, which will be held in the new center’s exhibit hall.

"It's the biggest party our community has ever had. This represents five years of planning and construction to get this done," said Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker. "It really is a new era for our city and county."

“We've got one chance to open it in a quality way, and that chance is now,” Bryan said.

Raleigh officials have considered at least two companies for the naming rights. The deal will also include a fountain and interactive artwork outside the complex.

A naming rights deal for the plaza could bring in more than $1 million over the next three to five years. That compares with $5.5 million Progress Energy is paying the city over the next 20 years for the naming rights to the performing arts center downtown.

Naming rights for convention centers usually don't generate the same kind of corporate cash as those for sports arenas, such as the RBC Center, marketing specialist Hill Carrow said.

"The most attractive naming-rights sponsorships are usually associated with professional facilities that get a lot of broadcast or media exposure," Carrow said.

Fewer than 10 convention centers in cities nationwide have corporate naming deals, and those range from $250,000 to $850,000 a year. Carrow predicted Raleigh's deal would fall somewhere in the middle of that range.

"It reaches a certain audience. The key for most companies (is) does it reach the audience I want to tap into?" he said. "I wouldn't see it as a real risk for a business."

Late last year, Durham-based Cree Inc. committed $1 million to erecting a "shimmer wall," with panels that shimmer in the wind, on the west side of the center.


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  • gandalf1 Feb 21, 2008

    "vibrant crime free city" iamanidiot

    Sorry to inform you but Raleigh is not a crime free city but if you are stupid enough to walk around late at night anywhere you want you may just find that out by becoming a statistic iamanidiot.

  • iamforjustice Feb 21, 2008

    I just love the ambience in downtown Raleigh. Nice to live in a clean and vibrant crime free city. I feel safe walking the streets of Raleigh.

  • Tripwire Feb 21, 2008

    There's nothing downtown that you can't find more conveniently somewhere else. Unless of course you happen to live downtown which most people don’t.

  • flashlight Feb 21, 2008

    "And YAY to not taking care of the rest of the city. BRILLIANT!"

    Yeah, they've quit repairing roads, bridges are falling down, schools have standing room only, people are roaming the streets crying, and the other day I was inconvenienced by RBC Center traffic! I'm also a lot thirstier... Did we lose a war or something!?

    Sarcasm aside, everything needs investment, including downtown.

  • charlesboyer Feb 20, 2008

    "You try to improve downtown and people come out of the woodwork crying 'boondoggle.' Yay, downtown!"

    And YAY to not taking care of the rest of the city. BRILLIANT!

  • peneloperedbull Feb 20, 2008

    Hondaman... It's pretty obvious you've been nowhere downtown in the last year or two. In fact, I just wrote a blog about two new restaurants that opened in the last two months.

    Maybe you prefer to eat things like dog food or rocks. They certainly don't serve that downtown. But they do have steaks and mac n cheese, Mexican food, Cajun-Creole, Italian and multiple BBQ spots just to name a few.

    You should check it out. You just might like it. And take advantage of the complimentary valet if you're too afraid to walk a block or two.

  • superman Feb 20, 2008

    Downtown is the pits-- you got to be desperate to find a place to eat if you go downtown. Daytime is out of the question and who in their right mind would want to walk several blocks at night to eat there? The convention center will end up like Roanoke Rapids-- just a big waste of money-- no money is free-- so who thinks it didnt cost taypayers? What planet you live on?

  • jsanders Feb 20, 2008

    At $221 million, that means Raleigh's center cost "only" $41 million more than projections. http://www.johnlocke.org/press_releases/display_story.html?id=171

  • peneloperedbull Feb 20, 2008

    Oh, I love how people complain. Go vote when the time comes and stop griping. And while you're at it, don't go out to eat, either. And especially stay away from those great new downtown restaurants because one of the main reasons they have opened their doors is that convention center and the surrounding growth.

    A light rail would be awesome. Going to take a lot more support from Raleigh-lovers to makes its way into reality. You try to improve downtown and people come out of the woodwork crying 'boondoggle.'

    Yay, downtown!

  • iamforjustice Feb 20, 2008

    All it needs is a light rail transit system. iamforjustice

    All it needs is new elected officials!
    GOLO member since January 23, 2008
    February 20, 2008 1:58 p.m.
    Report abuse

    Now that is the truth!!!!!