The City of Charlotte, the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority (CRVA) and their partners in North Carolina’s travel and hospitality industry inaugurated the US$126.9m (eds. €109.7m) Charlotte Convention Center expansion on October 21. The event gives the US city a facility that’s fully adaptable to new requirements in post-Covid times.
Charlotte, North Carolina broke ground on the expansion of its convention centre in December 2019 following several years of research, surveys, feedback and data-gathering. Less than two years later, work has been completed on the new infrastructure which has been designed in direct response to meeting planner needs. The expansion enhances the attendee experience and strengthens Charlotte’s competitiveness through increased capacity, convenient accessibility and more flexible spaces. The construction project was successfully delivered on-time and on-budget.
The construction presented several unique challenges. The design required expanding the building upward – adding meeting and event space onto the existing roof – which it was not built to to handle the extra weight when originally constructed more than 25 years ago. The venue is also one of only two convention centers in the country that has a light rail line running through it. Those two factors alone required extraordinary skill, coordination and planning.
The Convention Center’s expanded footprint means that Charlotte can attract not only larger events, but also creates the ability to layer multiple events in the venue simultaneously. The expansion added approximately 5,000 sq m of meeting rooms and spaces, taking the venue’s total leasable space to 60,000 sq m. The number of meeting rooms increased from 41 to 55 and now includes two highly-flexible 1,000 sq m spaces.
“After years of research, planning and construction, we are thrilled to finally celebrate the completion of this $126.9 million expansion and open the doors to the newest part of the Charlotte Convention Center,” said Tom Murray, Chief Executive Officer of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority. “The CRVA is incredibly proud of this milestone and the role it will play in attracting impactful business, increasing economic vitality and solidifying Charlotte’s reputation as one of the premier meetings destinations in the Southeast.”
A primary component of the expansion is an exterior over-street pedestrian walkway, which connects the Charlotte Convention Center to the adjacent 700-room Westin Charlotte, the city’s largest hotel and a Lynx Blue Line light rail stop. The structure provides access to the popular area of Stonewall Street corridor and Uptown Charlotte featuring over 200 restaurants, more than 6,000 hotel rooms as well as many entertainment options.
Economic opportunities while empowering communities
As part of the expansion, the City and CRVA used the project as an opportunity to give back to the community and strengthen and diversify the workforce pipeline through a project-based apprenticeship program. The program, which led to the hire of 50 new project construction workers, provided structured on-the-job learning, instruction and skills training in construction and other related building trades. Program graduates are eligible to earn state or national level credentials or certifications that enhance their hiring and wage potential. In 2020, the construction company H-EF-L was recognized as Minority Enterprise’s Workforce Development Champion of the Year.
The expanded Charlotte Convention Center is a valuable community asset that helps raise national and international awareness and perception of the region. From the creative integration of the Charlotte crown into the new carpet to a new spectacular public artwork, the building is a representation of the Charlotte brand for all visitors experiencing the city for meetings, conventions and events.
Since opening in 1995, the Charlotte Convention Center has welcomed more than 11 million guests from around the world and served as the Charlotte region’s preferred venue for conventions, trade shows, conferences, nonprofit and community celebrations, product launches, sporting events and more. The facility has played host to six US presidents, served as a backdrop for three movies and one television show, and has had boats, cars, helicopters and even cattle on display in its exhibit halls. It has earned business from prestigious national events such as the 2019 NBA All-Star Weekend, a driver of $87.7 million in economic impact for the region.