Raleigh’s little civic center, 92,000 square feet of dull, is “not comparable” to the competition, says HVS International, the city’s consulting firm. But even with a new convention center weighing in at 220,000 square feet, Raleigh can expect some bloody noses going against the other middleweight contenders.
Who are they? Other state capitals–Indianapolis, Columbus and Richmond, for example–plus regional draws like Memphis, Birmingham and Charlotte. The convention centers in Indianapolis and Columbia are 500,000 square feet each; Charlotte and Birmingham are more than 300,000 square feet; Richmond and Memphis are 200,000 square feet-plus.
A big problem is hotel rooms. Even with a new, 400-room Marriott, Raleigh would have just 1,000 downtown rooms (counting the Clarion on Hillsborough Street). Indianapolis has 5,300 downtown rooms; Charlotte, 4,000; Richmond, 1,800.
But the biggest problem, HVS says, is that while Raleigh’s got some nice places scattered around, it “lacks a centralized core of attractions … for out-of-town event attendees.” HVS found a lot of interest in the new convention center among in-state meeting planners. “The biggest concerns,” it said, “are the desire for continued progress in the revitalization of downtown.” Oh, and parking.