Local News

Attendance down at Raleigh Convention Center

Posted January 29, 2009 5:37 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— The economic trouble that is causing so many headaches is affecting business at the newly opened Raleigh Convention Center, which isn't seeing as many visitors as officials want.

Laurie Okun, director of convention sales, says that so far this year, one group has canceled, another decided to move to a different venue because it is cheaper and two other groups rescheduled.

"The biggest thing that concerns me is not the cancellations; it's the lower numbers of people that could be traveling, especially state travel."

Gov. Bev Perdue recently told all state agencies to cut spending by 7 percent, which could lead to cuts in travel and training spending.

The same policy, Okun fears, will be repeated and will have an impact on how many people will be at conventions this year.

"That's life, that's how I look at it," Okun said. "If anyone thought about opening this building with no snags, they probably shouldn't have this job."

Government events aren't the only ones that could be affected.

The National Agents Alliance, an insurance marketing group, is holding its second event at the center this month. The event is expected to draw about 2,000 people, but organizers were hoping for more.

"We expected to have up to 25 percent, and we had up to, maybe, 8 percent," said Andy Albright, the organization's director.

The $221 million Raleigh Convention Center, which opened in September after nine years of planning and construction, is 500,000 square feet. It has 19 meeting rooms, a grand ballroom and a four-star, 400 room Marriott hotel next door.

The city's investment was $41 million over budget, but city leaders have said they expect it to give a major boost to downtown Raleigh's rebirth.