The Greg Edds West End Plaza Convention Center in Salisbury

Posted on August 15, 2016

Todd Paris, Staff Writer and Salisbury Attorney

♦ Monday evening at the Rowan County Commission may be more “eventful” then imagined. As readers will recall the former Penny’s at West End Plaza has been used as an event center for some time now. This facility is said to have an 1100 person seating capacity and is about 65% utilized, but seldom is rented for groups. Thelma’s annual free veteran’s meal has been the event to come close.

Today the master plan has an option to turn the former Belk’s into a huge Convention Center this will be discussed and possibly even pushed through by Chairman Edds and his automatic pilot majority (Greene and Klusman.) Estimates for the convention center come in at around five million dollars (not including predictable construction overages to juice the cow, (the equivalent to a 1 cent county-wide property tax increase.)

Other than the local failed idea of “if we build it they will come” (think Fibrant and the old semi-pro ball field in North Kannapolis), I have never understood the continuous push by Edds to build this thing. What major corporate planner is going to say, “This year instead of Myrtle Beach, lets take our event to Salisbury?” The West End Plaza is around five miles away from the I-85 interstate.

There may be a method behind the madness. The drawings show a marked walkway from West End Plaza up the hill to the defunct theatre that Edds has fought to hold onto for no apparent reason. He is quoted to have said as early as a few months after he was elected that someone might build a hotel there some day.

What if, and this is mere conjecture, a certain developer is planning to build a hotel upon that theatre site? Perhaps they might have support from those that helped Edds, Klusman and Greene get elected back in 2014? Klusman and Greene openly campaigned against the mall until they were elected and suddenly were pro-mall within weeks. With Edds, it depended on what event he spoke at.

Conjecture aside, hotels are more profitable if they have an event or convention center attached or nearby. Down in South Rowan, it’s said that Pastor’s Goodair’s group is building their own hotel and event center, all with private money. Our county will be competing with him.

With, what will no doubt be one day called “The Edds Center at the West End Plaza” any potential hotel developer at the top of the hill will no doubt reap the benefits of a huge event or convention center without incurring the costs of construction, maintenance or heating and cooling. I wonder how many additional employees will be needed to care for and run this facility. A mammoth money sinkhole?
In the event this happens, it’s a bad idea. A respected official tells me that Cabarrus County’s arena and convention center runs a multi million dollar deficit each and every year. Of course, they are a wealthy county and can afford it. Building a county maintained and supported facility to directly compete with a privately funded development in Southern Rowan is not fair and not Republican.

If there is a hotel coming “at the top of the hill,” sell them the former Belk’s building and let them renovate and run it themselves. Knox Middle is still full of black mold and we need to hire one or more professional, first class, nationally ranked independent industrial recruiters to bring us a Toyota or BMW sized plant. The Edds Convention Center is a waste of money.

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