Motorcycle group hosts convention

The Cabarrus Arena & Events Center recently signed a contract with the N.C. Gold Wing Road Riders Association for the motorcycle group to host its annual convention at the Concord facility.

Members of the association will be here Sept. 20-23. At least 3,000 attendees are expected to generate an estimated $1.4 million in economic impact throughout the county, according to the Cabarrus County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The association signed a one-year contract but expects the arena to host the event locally for at least a couple of years, said North Carolina district director Andrew Butcher.

"When we started the process of finding a new venue, we did not plan to find something so quickly. It is amazing what is in your back yard," said Butcher. "The Cabarrus Arena & Events Center and the surrounding area is the complete package.

"Cabarrus is centrally located for all our members. The area has so much to offer. There is something for everyone, not to mention some beautiful countryside for our members to do some great riding."

The national association's website touts the group as the world's largest single-marque social organization for owners and riders of Honda Gold Wing/Valkyrie motorcycles.

Founded in 1977, the nonprofit has more than 72,000 U.S., Canadian and international members in 53 countries. More than 800 active chapters are managed by 4,000 volunteer leaders who work to improve the public image of motorcycling.

"Hosting the N.C. Gold Wing Road Riders Association will be a major event for the entire destination," said Donna Carpenter, president and chief executive officer of the Cabarrus CVB. "The Cabarrus Arena & Events Center is a great fit, and we know the riders will enjoy exploring all that Cabarrus County and the region has to offer."

As a destination marketing organization, the CVB supports local tourism and is funded by a portion of the county's hotel room occupancy tax. It also operates with support from the Cabarrus County Tourism Authority.

The CVB helped "sell" Cabarrus County as an ideal location for the 2012 event.

"The thing that finally convinced us was the team at the CVB," said Butcher. "Their enthusiasm and desire to make us feel welcomed worked. They have made us feel like we have found a home."

Comparable conventions held in Cabarrus County in 2010 included the National Corvette Restorers Society, the Greater Monroe Kennel Club and the N.C. Pupil Transportation Association, said Carpenter.

"Based on estimated room-nights, the N.C. Gold Wing Road Riders Association convention compares to events like the National Corvette Restorers Society Convention and the Charlotte Diesel Super Show," said Carpenter.

"Since there is a substantial (economic) impact, we are aggressively pursuing events like the NC GWRRA convention for Cabarrus County. Another great example is the Buick Club of America National Meet coming to Cabarrus County in 2012."

The events center is owned by Cabarrus County and managed by SMG, whose clients range from national recording artists to the NBA and the NHL. It also manages 220 stadiums, arenas and convention centers, including New Orleans' Superdome, Chicago's McCormick Place, Koka Booth Amphitheater in Cary and the North Charleston Coliseum in South Carolina.

The N.C. GWRRA convention "is a great opportunity for us because it brings a new client into our community," said Frank Lapsley, general manager of the events center. "It ranks up there in size with some of the largest events that we've put on, and this will definitely be the largest convention-oriented event that we've hosted at our facility."

The arena, because of its connection to SMG, is regularly in contact with promoters and agents. Events like this also will help the complex draw potential clients coming to the 2012 Democratic National Convention, Lapsley said.

"We make sure our complex has a seat at the table when negotiating for popular entertainment that is traveling through our area," he said. "And as our region makes preparations for the DNC coming next year, this will help us get on the radar of some of the bigger spinoff events that will come out of Charlotte."