The pandemic has hit many industries hard, and the convention industry has been hit very hard indeed. 12 conventions were forced to cancel at the Charlotte Convention Center in 2020 and it will be a while until a full convention will be on the schedule again. While this has been a blow to the industry, it has been an unexpected boon for the expansion at the convention center.
Conventions are big business and typically bring millions of dollars to the local economy. This comes in many forms, from hotel bookings, to restaurant revenue, to entertainment venues, to convention fees, to merchandise. There is an increase in jobs to support the conventions. There are also taxes collected from attendees, typically from the hotel tax.
To stay competitive in the convention marketplace, the Charlotte Convention Center needs to be able to stay current on trends in the industry. This means re-configuring the space to meet the needs of convention goers and conductors. If the space can’t provide what conventions are demanding, Charlotte could be left out of these important sources of revenue.
Construction on the project began in 2019 and is over 60% completed at this point. The major parts of the project include a call for breakout spaces so the plan calls for 55 up from the 41 currently in existence. Additionally a pedestrian bridge over Stonewall street connecting to the Westin Hotel, and 50,000 additional square feet of space bringing the total for the space to 600,000 square feet. Of the additional 50,000 square feet, there will be two 10,000 square foot spaces, each divisible into 19 different configurations.
Construction is on if not ahead of schedule right now, mostly due to the cancellations of conventions. Construction crews have been able to move quicker because they don’t have to keep noise down to accommodate a convention in progress. Crews can work on the part of the project that makes the most sense, not the part available to them due to events underway.
Another big contributor is lack of traffic in Uptown due to people working from home. This has made road closures easier for construction to be completed quickly. This is especially important for a large part of the convention center overhaul, the pedestrian bridge over Stonewall street.
The $126.9 million overhaul of the facilities comes at an opportune time for Uptown. As vaccination rates rise and states start to relax restrictions, gatherings are starting to get larger. This means that the Convention Center is getting ready to gear up for the first events of the year. With construction expected to be complete this summer, when it is expected that the entire US population will be vaccinated, timing appears to be perfect.
Cities get to be known for their conventions and they can further put a city on the map as a major player. From Comicon, to SXSW, to CIMA, to TEDx, conferences can bring a lot of prestige to a city. This can only be done when you have premier convention space, which Charlotte will have as soon as construction is completed.