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Event center staff reports full schedule

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Gov. Roy Cooper, left, watches the NTBA Rocky Mount Classic basketball tournament with Ron Green, chief professional officer of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tar River Region, on March 23 at the Rocky Mount Event Center.

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BY LINDELL JOHN KAY
Staff Writer

Thursday, April 11, 2019

The Rocky Mount Event Center is exceeding financial expectations and ahead on reservations for the rest of the year, according to the company managing the downtown facility.

"We're booked," said newly hired Event Center Manager Art Thomason.

On the calendar for the remainder of the year is 66 banquets, 32 sporting events and 37 other gatherings, said Dave Pritchett, chief operations officer for Sports Facilities Management, which oversees the Event Center.

As of the end of March, the Event Center is $5,000 ahead of its expected net income, Pritchett said.

Thomason said that from Friday through Sunday, 700 children used the Kid Zone activities in the lobby hall of the Event Center.

"I know you get the bad, I'm here to bring you the good," Thomason told the Rocky Mount City Council earlier this week during a council workshop.

Councilman Reuben Blackwell said he is often asked about whether the Event Center will host pro-wrestling events.

Thomason said he's in talks with WWE to bring wrestling to Rocky Mount.

Prior to coming on board at the Event Center, Thomason served as the event service manager for the Columbus Civic Center in Columbus, Ga., the site of multiple WWE events in the past few years.

Rocky Mount used to be a big wrestling town but hasn't seen much live action in the past few decades, according to Rick Nelson, promoter for Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, which holds an annual event in Rocky Mount.

Mayor David Combs said he's received concerns about an upcoming event titled Grown and Sexy in online advertisements.

Thomason said he wanted to borrow a phrase from a councilman, "don't blame me," and added that the event was booked prior to his being hired.

Thomason said he encourages local folks to come out and see what's going on at the Event Center, but most of the advertising targets other areas to draw groups to Rocky Mount.

Council members asked about the sound quality and complaints received after the Keith Sweat concert.

Thomason said a venue provides four walls, a roof and staff; concert promoters are responsible for sound equipment.

The problem experienced at the Sweat concert occurred because one of the concert crew members plugged sound equipment into the wrong box, he said.

Thomason said he's going to be the gatekeeper, passing on events the center can't accommodate.

Pritchett announced that the Event Center has contracted with celebrity chef Jerome Brown.

A Rocky Mount native, Brown began his cooking career at Gardener's Barbecue and continued to sharpen his culinary skills in the Army. After a stint cooking at Walt Disney World, Brown has served as chef to the stars and written books on cooking.

His company, Hot Grits, is interested in opening a fine dinning restaurant in downtown, according to August emails to City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney obtained by the Telegram via a public records request.

Brown defended Small-Toney during a Jan. 28 City Council meeting, saying the Telegram was dragging her through the mud in a series of articles about alleged malfeasance at City Hall.

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