Raleigh, N.C. — After six years of planning and three years of construction, the Raleigh Convention Center will open Sept. 5 amid the concerts, parades and crowds of the Raleigh Wide Open weekend festival.
The International Festival of Raleigh will be one of the first events held there as part of next week's grand opening celebration.
"I think we are going to see an increase in attendance from 15,000 to somewhere around 100,000,” Kathy Knudsen,director of the International Festival of Raleigh, said.
The center already has 135 conventions booked through 2023, and the bookings for this year are four times what was projected.
"We're just completely blown away by the interest in our area," Laurie Okun, with the Raleigh Convention Center, said.
The center's design focuses on North Carolina's past and future. The ballroom ceiling has a weave pattern paying tribute to the state's textiles history. The carpet pattern is made to look like a circuit board inside a computer. The state-of-the-art kitchen has 20 refrigerators.
"It's part of our promise that we were going to give people world class," convention center director Roger Krupa said.
The center is 500,000 square feet with 19 meeting rooms, a grand ballroom and a four-star, 400 room Marriott hotel next door.
The city's $221 million investment in the center – $41 million over its budget – is expect to give a major boost to downtown Raleigh's rebirth. Mayor Charles Meeker said earlier this month that he estimated it would help pump as much as $80 million annually into the local economy.
"It’s a new day for Raleigh and we are going to put our best foot forward for our guests and our hometown customers,” Krupa said.
The center is also environmentally friendly. Floor to ceiling windows allows light in – helping to cut down on electricity. It is just one feature that helped the center become certified for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.