Officials, business owners get peek at LeConte Center

Facility features 112,500-square-foot space; "unbelievably beautiful"
Apr. 10, 2013 @ 11:15 PM

Industrial Development Board members and local business owners met at the construction site of LeConte Center Tuesday afternoon for a luncheon, a meeting and a tour of the city's forthcoming events center.

Leon Downey, director of the city's tourism department, and design consultant Mike Wilds led the tour of the north part of the building. The south end is still under heavier construction.

The tour revealed a clean work site with rooms that looked close to completion.

There are three 2,000-square-foot multipurpose rooms on the north end of the building, which can be divided into six 1,000-square-foot rooms. On the south end are four 1,000-square-foot rooms divisible into eight 500-square-foot rooms.

The main exhibit hall, LeConte Hall, is 100,500 square feet, with an operable wall connected to the adjacent Greenbrier Hall that can be removed for a total space of 112,500 square feet.

"You can have a crowd of over 12,000 people, and nobody's going to be more than 137 feet from the stage," Wilds said. "It's going to feel very intimate."

A central room will allow event managers to oversee their operations from an on-site office.

"That's important to event owners," said local developer Bob McManus. "There's something special about having a room like this where you are catered to and you can get away and make sure your event is going just like you planned. So this is very nice."

The guests also toured the restrooms in the facility. The women's restrooms will have a seating area at the entrance. There are almost 200 toilets in the building, and air dryers, which are more environmentally friendly and eliminate the recurring costs of paper towels.

"It's a no-brainer really to have wind blades instead of paper towels," Wilds said.

None of the restroom amenities touch the floor, making cleaning quicker and easier.

"In about 15 minutes you can have a totally sanitized and clean restroom, and I still think that that's one of the basic things you have to do when serving the public," Wilds said.

Johnny Hill, chairman of the Industrial Development Board, said he was so impressed with the building "that I don't know what else to say. I think what I've seen so far is great."

"This is unbelievably beautiful," board member Linda Ogle said. "It's more than I expected. I did not expect it to be this nice. I don't know what I expected, but this is beyond my expectations. I'm impressed."

"It wows people," Downey said. "I love bringing event owners in here. They're just ga-ga. When you bring groups in, it just wows them."

An Industrial Development Board meeting took place inside the events center after the luncheon and before the tour.

At the meeting, the board approved the only item on the agenda: utilizing the project's contingency fund for additional expenses, such as conduits for data and phone above hard ceilings, and additional paint.

rhargett@themountainpress.com