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Free concert launches event center

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George Clinton reacts while he performs a song Thursday during the Grand Opening Celebration at the Rocky Mount Event Center.

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BY LINDELL JOHN KAY
Staff Writer

Friday, October 26, 2018

After years of planning, name changes and resistance, the Rocky Mount Event Center opened Thursday to an astonished crowd and the sounds of international music legend George Clinton.

Mayor David Combs said it's been a long journey but well worth it.

"We're going to have events coming to Rocky Mount you would never believe would come to Rocky Mount," Combs told attendees before the concert.

The Tams, Deep Fried Funk and George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic performed in front of a packed house.

The crowd was a mix of V.I.P. parking at the center, walk-up attendees and folks who parked around the city and rode shuttles to the 165,000-square-foot, multi-purpose facility between Main Street and Albemarle Avenue in downtown Rocky Mount.

State Rep. Shelly Willingham, D-Edgecombe, said the center will be a huge economic boost.

"It's an answer to naysayers," Willingham said. "Here it is now."

Nash County has seen a lot of economic growth, now it's Edgecombe's turn, Willingham said.

The Rev. Thomas Walker said the event center is a dream come true. He and Willingham worked together in 1982 to bring a conference center to Rocky Mount as members of the Edgecombe County Board of Commissioners.

"This council now got it done," Walker said. "We called it a convention center, but a rose by any other name is still sweet."

The $48-million project can host basketball and volleyball tournaments, weddings, corporate events, concerts with 4,400 seats and more.

"It's a perfect way to celebrate our 100th anniversary of being established as a city," Councilman Andre Knight said. "Well that was last year, but it's a great late present."

State Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Michael Regan announced that the Event Center is the 500th Brownfield agreement signed in North Carolina.

"Across North Carolina, communities like Rocky Mount are experiencing economic renewal thanks to the entrepreneurial and optimistic spirit of their citizens and local leaders — and thanks to the North Carolina Brownfields Program, which helps to repurpose properties once abandoned or neglected," Regan said.

The center has climbing walls, arcade games and slides to keep children busy, and a restaurant to feed the whole family.

The facility is bringing in 50 new jobs and by the 10th year of operation is projected to generate $264 million in new spending, according to city staff.

In the center's fifth year, it's expected to draw 400,000 annual visitors and 46,000 additional hotel room stays.

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