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CHARLOTTE-Charlotte is a major destination city in the convention competition, but it must compete with Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point in the Triad, and Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill in the Triangle.

Greensboro, for instance, is centrally located, has an international airport and many other convenient facilities, with the Greensboro Coliseum offering 120,000 sf of meeting space. The city also boasts 14 full-service hotels and a golf course. Greensboro has just hosted the USA Track and Field National Conference, beating out Portland, OR, Miami and Atlantic City, NJ.

In recent years, some events have outgrown the coliseum’s 120,000 sf, according to management, and local officials are seeking funding for a 30,000-sf expansion. Charlotte’s convention center, on the other hand, has 280,000 sf of exhibit space and a 35,000-sf ballroom. Charlotte also has over 20,000 hotel rooms, more than any other city in the Carolinas. The city also offers a long list of restaurants, museums, sporting events and plenty of shopping. Getting there is another plus, with 500 fights serving the city daily.

Charlotte hopes to become even more competitive in a few more years when a convention headquarters hotel is completed. The 700-room Westin Hotel will make it easier for the city to host large conventions.

In the Triangle, Raleigh has made strong strides in pursuing the meeting trade, with sports playing a key role. The Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau has a new sports marketing department and recently hosted the Special Olympics World Summer Games. The city is hoping its one-year-old Entertainment Sports Arena will appeal to large groups. In addition to sports, government and religious groups, the city also attracts education, engineering and science meetings.

Meanwhile, one of the Triad cities, High Point, will be more in demand as a host for large conventions. The city recently held a grand opening of its 450,000-sf Showplace of High Point in conjunction with the International Home Furnishings Market. Although the facility will focus on the furniture industry, it will also begin hosting many other kinds of events.

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