With the venue unable to host conventions or events during most of 2020, a creative partnership transformed its exhibit halls into a temporary warehousing site in support of the community
Normally the exhibit halls at the Charlotte Convention Center in any given year are bustling with tradeshow booths, sports courts and attendees from across the country. For the past 12 months, however, these expansive spaces have been full of food and volunteers lending a hand to support our neighbors in need through a partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina.
Food insecurity became a reality for many more families and individuals across the region as the impact of the pandemic caused economic hardship, job losses, children missing school meals and senior citizens sequestering at home. The pandemic also significantly disrupted the hospitality industry and brought meetings and business travel to a halt for most of the year, creating the opportunity to use the convention center in non-traditional ways.
In response to increased demand for support services due to lockdowns and a decreased demand for meetings, Second Harvest and the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority partnered together to leverage available space in the building’s exhibit halls as an additional workspace and staging area which temporarily expanded the non-profit’s capacity.
“Second Harvest needed the extra space and the convention center had it to give,” explains Bill Tripet (pictured left), general manager of the Charlotte Convention Center. “We’re proud to serve our community in this way, and we’re incredibly grateful to Second Harvest for their tireless efforts to feed hungry people across our region – not only during the pandemic but 365 days a year.”
At the conclusion of the year-long initiative:
- An estimated 8 million pounds of food passed through the Charlotte Convention Center after being sorted, packed and prepared for distribution to Second Harvest partner emergency pantries.
- 255,618 nutritionally balanced food boxes were packed and readied for transport.
- A reported 37,133 volunteer hours were contributed at the convention center operation. Nearly three-quarters of those hours were provided by the National Guard as part of their COVID-19 community response, with the balance coming from individual volunteers.
The partnership between Second Harvest and the CRVA originally kicked off on March 27, 2020.
The Charlotte Convention Center joins the Bojangles Entertainment Complex (BOplex) as CRVA-managed venues that are serving the community during the pandemic. The BOplex’s new connector facility was an early voting location in October 2020 and the venue continues to operate as a COVID-19 drive-through testing site and a vaccine distribution point. The Spectrum Center, for which the CRVA provides back-of-house operations, has served as a mass vaccination site.
The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority works to deliver experiences that uniquely enrich the lives of our visitors and residents. Through leadership in destination development, marketing and venue management expertise, the CRVA leads efforts to maximize the region’s economic potential through visitor spending, creating jobs and opportunities for the community. Brands supported by the CRVA include the Charlotte Convention Center, Spectrum Center, Bojangles Coliseum, Ovens Auditorium, NASCAR Hall of Fame, Charlotte Regional Film Commission and Visit Charlotte in conjunction with the region’s destination marketing brand. For more info, visit crva.com.
The Charlotte Convention Center, which marked its 25th anniversary in 2020, is currently undergoing a $126.9 million expansion that will add 50,000 square feet of flexible meeting space as well as an overstreet pedestrian walkway connecting to the LYNX Blue Line light rail Stonewall station and the 700-room Westin Charlotte hotel. The project is expected to be completed in late summer 2021. For more info, visit www.charlottemeetings.com/charlotte-convention-center
As part of Feeding America, Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina serves 24 counties in North and South Carolina. In FY2019-2020, Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina distributed over 70 million pounds of food and household items to over 800 hunger feeding agencies including emergency pantries, soup kitchens, senior programs, shelters and low-income day cares. Follow the Food Bank on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, YouTube.