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Capital competition

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Raleigh's little civic center, 92,000 square feet of dull, is "not comparable" to the competition, says HVS International, the city's consulting firm. But even with a new convention center weighing in at 220,000 square feet, Raleigh can expect some bloody noses going against the other middleweight contenders.

Who are they? Other state capitals--Indianapolis, Columbus and Richmond, for example--plus regional draws like Memphis, Birmingham and Charlotte. The convention centers in Indianapolis and Columbia are 500,000 square feet each; Charlotte and Birmingham are more than 300,000 square feet; Richmond and Memphis are 200,000 square feet-plus.

A big problem is hotel rooms. Even with a new, 400-room Marriott, Raleigh would have just 1,000 downtown rooms (counting the Clarion on Hillsborough Street). Indianapolis has 5,300 downtown rooms; Charlotte, 4,000; Richmond, 1,800.

But the biggest problem, HVS says, is that while Raleigh's got some nice places scattered around, it "lacks a centralized core of attractions ... for out-of-town event attendees." HVS found a lot of interest in the new convention center among in-state meeting planners. "The biggest concerns," it said, "are the desire for continued progress in the revitalization of downtown." Oh, and parking.

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