RALEIGH, N.C. — Will Raleigh's new $215 million convention center have the same challenges that Charlotte's center is currently facing?
For 2009, the Charlotte Convention Center is down about 75 percent, having lost a majority of bookings to larger convention centers, such as Atlanta's. Reservations for 2010 are just a little better.
Some Raleigh leaders, however, have said they are not too concerned about a decreased number of bookings because when the new convention center opens, it will not compete with Charlotte. Raleigh's 500,000-square-foot facility is only half the size of Charlotte's.
"We have a smaller niche, a much smaller cross section of trade shows and conventions that we are pursuing," said Loren Gold, director of sales for the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Already, the facility has three conventions booked when it opens in 2008. There are also three booked for 2009. Leaders believe they are on pace to surpass projections.
"We are a third of the way with two years to sell," Gold said.
But some leaders, such as Wake County Commissioner Phil Jeffreys, who has worried about booking from the very beginning, have said they are not convinced.
"Business seems to be good, but is it really as good as it seems, particularly looking out two to three years?" asked Jeffreys.
A new group of high-profile business leaders, the Capital City Connectors, is being formed to help ensure the convention center does not fail. Led by former IBM executive Dave Benevides, members will try to use their influence to recruit groups in their industries "to really get off to a positive start, to have a solid foundation to grow quickly," according to Benevides.
Charlotte bookers remain positive, having said they still have time to make up the numbers. And Raleigh bookers are out to prove the naysayers wrong.
"I really hope that I'm wrong," Jeffreys said.
Supporters have said they believe curiosity about the developing capital city will also spark interest in coming to Raleigh for a convention.
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