WILMINGTON, N.C. – When the Wilmington Convention Center opened in November 2010, it did so with much anticipation and 75 bookings already secured.
A decade later, the largest convention center on the North Carolina coast has hosted nearly 650,000 attendees and received numerous awards and accolades. The convention center team is now looking ahead to future Convention District development and openings in Wilmington.
The maritime-themed, LEED Silver-certified building offers meeting capabilities from 20 to 2,000 people in a variety of spaces, including a 30,000-square-foot exhibit hall, 12,000-square-foot ballroom, 15,000 square feet of pre-function space, and 6,000 square feet of additional meeting space, along with a 12,000-square-foot waterfront event lawn.
The building’s architecture and interior design elements are reflective of Wilmington’s shipbuilding past as a port city, including rafters mimicking a ship’s hull and awnings that mimic its sails; nautical-inspired lighting fixtures with elements resembling coral, fish bones, and boat propellers; and more than 275 photos, postcards, watercolors, artifacts, and oils depicting Wilmington’s past on display in the center’s concourse areas.
“With an award-winning riverfront, one of the largest National Register Historic Districts in the country, three nearby island beaches, and good weather year-round, people are naturally drawn to Wilmington and Beaches. The opening of the Wilmington Convention Center was a necessity when it came to attracting meetings and conventions,” said Kim Hufham, president and CEO of the Wilmington and Beaches Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB). “Many planners had historically wanted to select the area for their meetings and events because there is plenty for attendees to see and do before or after the event. The opening of the center was the catalyst for fulfilling attendees’ desire to bring their families along to spend vacation time in a destination that is filled with family-friendly attractions and things to do at our beaches, in our parks and more.”
Milestones for the Wilmington Convention Center over the last 10 years include:
– A total of 649,428 attendees hosted; the largest corporate event hosted was for 1,000 people with attendees from Japan, Canada, England, and Australia.
– Television shows and movies filmed at the convention center include Good Behavior, One Tree Hill, Revolution, Safe Haven, Scream 5, Secret and Lies, and We’re The Millers; the lawn was even used as the filming location for a national Planters peanuts commercial.
– The Wilmington Convention Center has been the recipient of 15 culinary awards, including Best of Show – The Copper Kettle in 2013 and 2017, the top honor awarded during the annual Epicurean Evening event.
The Wilmington Convention Center offers socially distanced meeting capabilities for up to 330 people theater-style, 385 people banquet-style, and 70 8-by-10-foot exhibits, plus a variety of breakout spaces for up to 45 people theater-style. Outdoor networking spaces include an event lawn, the scenic two-mile Riverwalk, Port City Marina, and an event pier.
The Wilmington Convention Center is managed by ASM Global.