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Wilmington Convention Center still has room to grow

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The City of Wilmington said if you build it, they will come about the $60 million convention center downtown, but how is the facility really doing.

The Wilmington Convention Center gave city council its year-in-review report Tuesday night. General manager Susan Eaton says the center hosted some 113 events and almost 67-thousand people from July 1, 2011 until June 30, 2012.

That number included nine conventions, 12 shows, 60 banquets, and 32 meetings. Eaton, however, did not break down specifically how many people attended any particular events.

Eaton says there are two problems that continuously come up when trying to get people to come to the convention center. Where people are going to stay and where they are going to park.

Right now, parking for events is eight dollars a day at the attached parking garage. Eaton says she knows no one likes to pay for parking but it has to be done.

“You got to collect money so that you can pay those bills,” says Eaton. “It’s kind of a necessary evil to have such convenient parking.”

Eaton says she knows the facility has more to do before they reach their full potential. She hopes the addition of the hotel next door will help bring even more events to the area in 2013.

“Obviously there’s room to grow, there’s space to grow, there’s room for people to physically grow their events too,” says Eaton.

The convention center cost $60 million to build and is being paid for with hotel room occupancy taxes. Based on rooms available as of right now, that fund will run out in a few years – but Eaton and council members hope new hotels currently being built and a proposed convention center hotel will help that fund survive longer.

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