Sept. 1-2 events will ‘tell many stories’ of Charlotte.

By Jim Morrill
jmorrill@charlotteobserver.com
Posted: Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012

Democratic convention festivities will kick off Sept. 1 with a party for 15,000 media members at the N.C. Music Factory, with receptions a day later for 6,000 delegates at a dozen venues around the city.

Organizers plan to announce those venues this morning.

“Hosting our guests at these distinct venues truly puts our best foot forward,” said Dan Murrey, executive director of the convention host committee. “Showcasing these unique venues allows us to tell the many stories about why this is a great place to live and visit.”

The receptions will serve as the official welcome to many of the 35,000 expected visitors, and kick off more than 1,000 convention-related events. The events will add a Charlotte flavor to a convention that already will have a different touch.

The convention itself will shrink from four days to three. Instead of starting on Labor Day (Sept. 3) as once planned, organizers will host an event for 75,000 people at Charlotte Motor Speedway on that day. The actual convention begins the next day, Sept. 4. Then on Sept. 6, President Barack Obama will give his acceptance speech at Bank of America Stadium.

Though organizers won’t identify the venues of the Sept. 2 delegate parties until today, they’ll announce them at the Charlotte Museum of History, which, like other museums, is expected to be a site.

Mary Tribble, chief of event planning for the host committee, said the 12 venues will host groups of between 300 and 1,600. The sites are designed to showcase the region’s historical, cultural and entertainment offerings.

“I really want the delegate events to tell some version of the Charlotte story,” she said. “… They won’t be passive events, they’ll be interactive.”

Each reception will have its own event planner. On Thursday, would-be bidders will get details on submitting proposals. Organizers say multiple planners will give more local businesses a piece of the action.

“These are really great examples of the positive economic impact this event will have on Charlotte,” said Tribble.

The parties will feature food, open bars and, in some cases, entertainment. Tribble declined to say how much they’ll cost, or how much is budgeted.

Host committee spokeswoman Suzi Emmerling said the money will come from the host committee’s “hospitality budget.”

In raising nearly $37 million for the convention itself, the host committee is barred by self-imposed rules from taking corporate donations, money from lobbyists or individual contributions over $100,000. Those rules don’t apply to the hospitality budget. Belk Stores and Wells Fargo already have said they plan to contribute.

Noah Lazes, president of the Ark Group which developed the Music Factory, declined to say how much the convention is paying to rent the entire 37-acre site.

“They’re not getting it for free, but you can believe they’re getting a great deal,” he said.

The Music Factory encompasses more than a dozen tenants, including The Fillmore music hall, nightspots, restaurants and a comedy club. Journalists will have the run of the site, sampling local and regional entertainers on more than a half-dozen stages as well as food and beverages.

When Charlotte hosted the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four in 1994, Lazes ran a makeshift bar on South Tryon Street, a faux “entertainment district” built solely for the event’s fans.

“It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come since the days of the Final Four,” he said. “We’re going to surprise a lot of people who think (Charlotte) is a sleepy banking town with nothing going on after 5.”

Morrill: 704-358-5059