Around Town

The secrets of the Charlotte Convention Center

In case you missed the news (and the tribute stories), the Charlotte Observer just moved its newsroom to the NASCAR Plaza building. Once I figured out how to swipe my security badge in the elevators and properly navigate the revolving door on the first floor, I felt fairly at home.

Step two: explore the building we’re connected to. Which is the Charlotte Convention Center. This place is full of events, like last week’s Charlotte Center City Partners Vision Awards and next week’s NPC Charlotte Cup Bodybuilding & Bikini Championships.

I decided to set out on a quest to discover the secrets of the Charlotte Convention Center, beyond the events. What does this building have to offer the uptown worker on a typical workday? Answers:

(1) Hallowed ground.

There’s an outdoor garden tucked into the side of the building by the College Street entrance. Complete with babbling fountains, plenty of benches (some people use these for naps, I’m told) and a Monument of Valor dedicated to Major Mark W. Syrkin, which reads: “The people of Charlotte have selected this serene corner of hallowed ground to honor all members of America’s Armed Forces whose units gather in our City.”

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(2) Food.

It’s slim pickings in here, but there is a Starbucks hut on the first floor if that’s your jam, and the second floor holds the Delish Food Court, which is more like a snack bar. Bojangles? Bon Cibo? Einstein’s Bagels? It’s yours. Note that the hours don’t extend throughout the day.

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I do have my eye on Einstein’s coffee bar for my mid-morning slump. The Neighborhood Blend sounds friendly.

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And Bon Cibo has $3 Tres Leches cake.

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(3) Two gift shops.

Sometimes you need a Charlotte postcard. Or a DNC 2012 shot glass (see first-floor gift shop).

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Or a festive Queen City wine goblet (see more sophisticated second-floor gift shop).

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(4) A place to charge your computer, and free WiFi.

Check out the second floor computer “bar” after you finish up in the gift shop(s). There’s an H20 vending machine as well. Always hydrate.

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(5) So much art.

So much to take in, to be inspired by. For starters:

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"I've Known Rivers" by Juan Logan

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"Home Movie" by Paul Albert Russo

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"The Goodliest Land" by Ruth Ava Lyons

There was also a strip of wall carrying canvases of iconic (seeming) Charlotte images on a back hallway of the second floor as well: The Bechtler, Carowinds, EpiCentre (really?), Charlotte Motor Speedway, NC Music Factory (*cough* someone needs to update this label).

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(6) Quiet, empty spaces.

It wasn’t a big day for events when I was there, so a bunch of rooms on the second floor, particularly, were open and empty. And peaceful. And probably not intended for the wandering uptown worker.

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Note: The events aren’t necessarily intended for the wanderer, either. I tried to to scope out this Biomass Conference & Expo in the exhibition space beneath the first floor. But I got kicked out before I could read the sign about Blackout Bingo.

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Still, the Convention Center is worth a wander. It’s gargantuan — with 280,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space, 850,000 sq. ft. of art features and amenities, 90,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting space — and it was given to you. And to me. And to all of Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

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Photos: Katie Toussaint

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