Local News

Raleigh Begins Campaign To Book Unfinished Convention Center

Posted July 11, 2005 3:28 a.m. EDT

— Raleigh's new convention center is not even up yet, but the sales job has already started.

The challenge is getting people to look beyond a big piece of land with a lot of dirt and try to convince potential customers to book at the 500,000-square-foot facility when it opens in spring 2008.

Prospective customers will receive a video that will give them an idea and feel for the space and character of the new convention center when it is complete.

"They know Raleigh. They just don't know this new center yet, so that's what we are doing is trying to give them an introduction to this new center," said Raleigh's city manager, Russell Allen.

The city hopes the video can help sell something planners cannot yet see. But some event planners say it is just too risky.

Bev Gelvin, who coordinates large events for the State Association of Nurserymen, said she needs to get a realistic feel for the center design before she commits.

"Until I see it, I won't book," Gelvin said. "We are just concerned about loading and unloading and the ability to handle a major show."

Even if some groups are hesitant to book in the first few months, leaders said they do not think the convention center will sit empty. They said they can produce local events, such as a car show or boat show.

At the same time, they do realize they will not have full occupancy in the first six months. They hope reminding groups that the convention center is running on schedule and within budget will draw more business early on.

The Baptist State Convention is the first major booking for the new facility. An estimated 5,000 people will attend in November 2008.