Local News

Gala recognizes convention center supporters

Posted September 10, 2008 11:01 p.m. EDT
Updated September 10, 2008 11:48 p.m. EDT

— Celebrations surrounding Raleigh's new convention center continued Wednesday evening with a formal gala honoring everyone who has been instrumental in creating the landmark.

“We are the first,” Misty Thebeau, with National Agents Alliance, said.

Thebeau is with the Burlington-based company that booked the first convention – even before the first steel beam was put in place.

“Lots of finger-crossing, lots of phone calls. ... But we were assured by everyone that it (the convention center) would be finished,” Thebeau said.

After six years of planning and three years of construction, the center opened Sept. 5.

“They did this together using (the) hotel and motel tax to build this place. It's a beautiful idea and a wonderful way of working together,” Wake County Commissioner Harold Webb said.

The city's $221 million investment in the new convention center should keep reaping financial benefits. Mayor Charles Meeker has estimated that the project will help pump as much as $80 million annually into the local economy.

“We're talking $60 to 80 million a year in visitor spending. Some of that will be in taxes. That money will bounce around the community. We're talking 250 new jobs in this facility. Of course hotels and restaurants having additional jobs as well – so a big impact throughout,” Meeker said.

The 500,000-square-foot convention center has 19 meeting rooms, an exhibit hall and a ballroom. Officials said more than 140 conventions have been booked.

The first convention takes over the facility Thursday. National Agents Alliance, which works closely with the insurance industry, will be setting up for its convention that starts Friday. Close to 1,600 attendees are expected.