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business of distinction UTILIZING THE FACILITY The convention center has grown tremendously in its five-year history. The 107,000-square-foot facil-ity played host to 73 events in 2011, the year it opened. In 2015, that number grew to 155. SMG, the management company for the center, estimates that 2016 will generate attendance of more than 76,000 for 145 events. Susan Eaton, general manager and director of sales and marketing for the convention center, says that 13 repeat customers have used the facility on an annual basis since it opened. “One of our largest customers that produces the most room nights on an annual basis is the PPD Beach to Battleship Triathlon,” she says. “The event has about 2,200-2,300 registered racers. The room nights are incred-ible: over 4,200 hotel rooms booked in the city Thursday through Sunday. This is becoming an Ironman competi-tion, which will now attract even more people.” The building’s grand ballroom can be subdivided into six separate rooms. Together with a junior ballroom and smaller meeting rooms — many of which have moveable walls — the facility offers 18,000 square feet of inside meeting space. The facility has the capacity to host conventions, public shows, meetings and banquets. It offers full food and beverage service from a large, state-of-the- art, on-site kitchen. Drive-in vehicle ramps allow for any size or type of exhibitions, such as boats or cars, in the vast 30,000-square-foot exhibit hall. Beautiful outdoor spaces, such as the event lawn overlooking the Cape Fear River, add even more options for meeting planners. A 578-space parking deck adjacent to the facility allows visitors easy access to the convention center. A sculpture by Wilmington artist Dumay Gorham III depicts the Wilmington Dram Tree that served as a landmark to sailors during Colonial times. RECLAIMING THE SITE The land where the Wilmington Convention Center now sits had been unused for years when the City of Wilmington acquired it in 2005. The Atlantic Coast Line Railroad moved its headquarters from Wilmington to Jacksonville, Florida, in 1956, and the location sat vacant. “The idea to build a convention center began back in the ’60s,” LS3P’s Charles H. Boney Jr. says. “It took a while for the public to get behind that. “There was a bond resolution in ’81 or ’82 to build a convention center, but it failed. That idea lay dormant for another 20 years.” The time was right to resurrect the idea, and the land along the river was the ideal location for a convention center, but there was a problem. The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources desig-nated it a Brownfield site — land previously used for industrial purposes, which may have been contaminated, meaning it would require extensive envi-ronmental cleanup. The city hired Wilmington civil engineering company WK Dickson to develop 78 WBM june 2016


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