Local News

Convention Center Bookings Double Estimates

Posted September 25, 2007 5:52 a.m. EDT
Updated September 25, 2007 6:28 p.m. EDT

— About a year before it is scheduled to open, the new downtown convention center and neighboring hotel have doubled initial booking projections, officials said Tuesday.

Twenty-three conventions have been booked for the first year of operations, and 58 events have been lined up for the second year, officials said. More than 63,600 nights in the four-star, 400-room Marriott hotel next to the convention center have been booked in the first year, they said.

“Room night bookings are 2½ times higher than projected in the first year of operations. Year Two is already at 93 percent of projections, and the booking window on that year remains open," Thomas Hazinski, managing director of HVS International, which developed the business plan for the convention center, said in a statement. "Clearly, you have ramped up your marketing and sales faster than anticipated.”

The largest convention booked so far is the Omega Psi Phi fraternity conclave in July 2010, which could draw up to 10,000 people and is expected to have a $6.5 million impact on the local economy.

"Anytime you have a new facility, you'd like to see it get off to a good start," Mayor Charles Meeker said. "Things are coming along well here, in part because we're centrally located and part because it's a new facility and part because people like coming to Raleigh to go to the restuaraunts and shop and look around town."

Construction on the convention center is 75 percent complete, while the Marriott is about half finished, Meeker said. An underground parking deck that will serve both the convention center and the hotel is about 85 percent finished, he said.

Rising construction costs have pushed the estimated price tag on the 500,000-square-foot convention center to $221 million, or about $41 million more than the original budget.

The convention center will feature 19 meeting rooms and a 32,000-square-foot ballroom.

"This is going to be one of the finest convention centers in the country, no doubt," said Dennis Edwards, president and chief executive of the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau. "The thing that is in our favor – Raleigh has a great reputation for quality of life and a place to do business."

Wake Technical Community College also has entered into a partnership with the convention center, officials said Tuesday. A new program modeled on Walt Disney Co. standards and methods will train students for entry-level jobs in the service industry.

“This facility is the living room of our community, and Wake Tech is proud to be partnering with the convention center to make sure that the hard-working staff here makes every guest and visitor shine,” college President Stephen Scott said in the statement.

Meeker said a week-long grand opening party for the convention center will be held next September, featuring concerts, exhibits and activities throughout the facility.