Changes coming for World of Bluegrass in Raleigh?

Rendering of proposed convention center and amphitheater in downtown Raleigh

At a press conference yesterday, officials with the Raleigh Convention Center, current home for the IBMA’s annual World of Bluegrass convention, and the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau, announced plans for a major expansion of the convention center, and a new site for the Red Hat Amphitheater, where IBMA holds its Bluegrass Live! weekend festival following the conference.

Kerry Painter, general manager and director of the complex that includes both facilities, said that they want to relocate the Red Hat one block south from its current site on McDowell Street in downtown Raleigh, and build an extension of the convention center on the current Red Hat footprint.

Plans include connecting the convention center extension to the existing building by an elevated pedestrian walkway. The center already connects to the Marriott hotel by an underground corridor.

Approval of this $425 million upgrade must yet be given by the Board of Commissioners and Raleigh City Council, but Painter and Dennis Edwards with the Visitors Bureau expect the plan to be accepted. A vote is set for June 20 of this year.

Funding would come through a special hospitality tax, with monies set aside for projects such as this.

As envisioned, the convention center extension would add another 500,000 square feet of convention space, and an additional 30 breakout rooms.

Both Painter and Edwards indicated that these facilities are maxed out, and that they have lost conventions because of the inability to provide adequate space. They also said that the downtown development plan that built the current convention center and amphitheater were always intended as stop gap, or temporary fixes.

2022 set all time records for hotel stays downtown, so the planners believe that the funding for this major expansion will be forthcoming.

It may mean construction for a couple of years during World of Bluegrass, with far better facilities on the other side.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.