Local News

Visitor Center Possible for Capital City

Posted March 1, 2007 10:34 p.m. EST
Updated March 2, 2007 4:44 p.m. EST

— North Carolina's capital city could soon have its own visitor's center with $28 million allocated in the governor's latest budget.

But some say it would be difficult to rally support for the project because of more pressing issues in state.

"I certainly think we need one," Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake, said. "I think we have a huge highway problem. We are way behind on infrastructure needs, and I'd have a hard time supporting $28 million dollars."

But tourism officials say a high-profile, easy-access Capital City Visitors Center is needed. A small kiosk inside the North Carolina Museum of History now serves as the sole location for visitors looking to get information about state attractions.

Many visitors say it is hard to find.

"I wasn't sure what building it was in this row of buildings and I asked two or three people,” said visitor Beth Dixon, who lives in Ashe County

At one time, a capital area visitors center did exist in an old building on Blount Street, but it closed about four years ago.

Since then, leaders say the amount of people seeking out information has dropped 75 percent. A new center, they say, could mean increased revenue for the state.

“This is an opportunity to come in, get information on the city and the state, and hopefully, it will keep them there another day or keep them within the state another significant amount of time,” said David Heinl, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Heinl said visitors also need a safe drop-off and gathering facility for the 324,000 students who visit downtown Raleigh each year.

Instead of eating on the ground, students would have a place to store and eat their lunch.

The plan calls for a 27,000 square-foot building and large plaza in a parking lot across from the Archives and History Building. It includes 400 underground parking spaces.

Supporters say the price is a way to build on an industry already bringing in more than $14 billion each year statewide.