Conventer Center Gets Design and Manager

Wilmington, NC – Wilmington's proposed Convention Center has a manager. City Council members Tuesday night approved a five-year contract with the nation's largest convention center management company, SMG of Philadelphia.

City documents show an arrangement in which Wilmington pays SMG a slowly increasing management fee, starting at $100,00 the first year, and going up 3.5% every year after.

Aditionally, SMG may earn an annual incentive fee based on the center's success.

According to SMG predictions, the Wilmington Convention Center's budget will enter the black three years after opening. Until then, operating losses will be paid for out of local Room Occupancy Taxes. The company has also agreed to waive all its compensation if it misses financial projections two years running.

SMG was selected from a field of four bids. The company will also provide catering service at the facility.

The public also got a new at the Convention Center's new look, when the project's new architects, LS3P/Boney, unveiled their design drawings.

With a billowing roof and exterior walls meant to evoke sails, architect Paul Boney says the the single-story design meets the requirements set out in a lawsuit settlement last year.

The Convention Center complex will include a one-acre park, a public parking deck, and 254-room Marriot hotel, paid for a private developer.

According to its architects, the lower design brings down the cost of construction under budget and separates the Convention Center from its neighboring hotel.

But City Councilwoman Pat Delair said she's worried that without room to expand, the Center is too small to be viable. Consultants, Delair said, have advised the Council that the facitily will need to be able to expand in coming years.

"That's impossible to do with the size of the site and the way we've designed the convention center now. Because we have one level, we'll never go up," Delair said.

But despite her long opposition to the Center, Delair admits Wilmington does definitely seem to be headed in the direction of building it.

Convention Center Task Force chair Dale Smith agrees with that projection; his group hopes to see construction start by the summer.

As far as he's concerned, Smith said, "the task force is going to be out of work soon."

January 16th, 2007, City Council Agenda (Item #11)

New rendering of the proposed Wilmington Convention Center

Schematic for the Convention Center