CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- More than one million people attend nearly 4,000 events and functions at the Charleston Civic Center every year, but those numbers could be even higher if the facility had more space and style, civic center General Manager John Robertson said.
The center -- which was built in 1958 and renovated more than 30 years ago -- has to be updated and expanded to meet industry demands, he said.
Civic Center officials have tried to find ways to fix the facility for at least seven years, he said. The problem has been finding the right resources to fund the "big picture things."
On Tuesday, Charleston Mayor Danny Jones announced plans to spend $45 to $60 million in renovations to improve the civic center.
Jones said he wants to eliminate and reduce some business and occupation taxes on manufacturing in the city, and raise sales taxes by 0.5 percent. The tax changes would have the potential to generate $3.57 million a year, Jones said.
In the past decade, public spending on convention centers has doubled to $2.4 billion annually, according to DesignIntelligence, a bi-monthly report issued by the Design Futures Council.
The renovations would include a new 20,000-square-foot ballroom, 5,000 square feet of additional meeting space, kitchen renovations, more restrooms and enhancements to the exterior's appearance. New lighting, sound systems and an energy-efficient, climate control heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system are also in the works.
"The industry has changed, the expectations of meeting planners has changed and in order for us to compete and meet the demands of meeting planners, we've got to make some adjustments," Robertson said. "We've got to do some expansion and make some changes to the physical structure to allow us to be successful when we try to compete for that business."
Charleston has lost an estimated $28 million in business because the Charleston Civic Center can't accommodate meeting planners' needs, said Jama Jarrett, vice president of office operations and communications at the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Convention centers aren't used as just musical arenas anymore, Jarrett said.Jarrett said the CVB has tried to bring nontraditional events, such as the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association of America, but can't because of limited space at the civic center.
"These groups are looking for particulars, such as the size of the convention center, seating, how accommodating it is to the group and throughout the years we have lost particular pieces of business because the civic center wasn't big enough," Jarrett said. "We've had to turn down business or not approach [them] simply because they have an 'x' number of attendees and we just don't have the space for them."
Since 1990, convention space in the U.S. has increased by more than 50 percent, according to DesignIntelligence.
Space is the number-one criterion for meeting planners, Jarrett said.