Cover Story: Charlotte's big week

By Jeff Atkinson - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The week of May 10, Charlotte hosts a series of events featuring some of the most famous celebrities in the world.

Sarah Palin at the National Rifle Association Convention.  Glenn Beck also making an appearance for the NRA.

Michael Phelps swimming in one of Charlotte's oldest sporting events.

And of course, the grand opening of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.  Richard Petty and others on hand as the first class goes in

This is the kind of attention the Queen City's wanted and worked for years.

Great for the economy. But how will it be for your commute and convenience?

Are we ready for the spotlight?

We think Charlotte's on the move.  Next week, the world's going to see it.

"This is unprecedented. This is the perfect storm."

In a four block area off South Tyron Street is ground zero for Charlotte's big week.

  • Opening of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
  • The National Rifle Association meeting at the Charlotte Convention Center.
  • And USA Swimming's Charlotte UltraSwim Grand Prix.

"We have never had this kind of convergence of these kinds of openings.. this kind of real attention and this many people this many openings at one time," says Moira Quinn of Charlotte Center City Partners.

Great for the city.  Great for the economy.  But all those people..

  • 80,000 expected for the NRA Convention
  • 5,000 for the swim meet at the county-owned Mecklenburg Aquatic Center.
  • And who knows how many for the Hall of Fame opening

On top of the usual 70,000 who work in uptown and 14,000 who live here it's liable to get a little crowded.

This is what Center City boosters don't want to have happen.  Four years ago, chaos when they shut down some uptown streets when they reconfigured Speed Street.

It's why Center City Partners' Moira Quinn is trying to get ahead of the storm notifying stakeholders not to be caught off guard.

"It's good to know that all this is happening so that you can have fun with the week and not say where'd all these people come from?" says Quinn.

They're advising uptown workers to carpool.. use mass transit and consider scheduling business meetings off site.

Over at Ruth's Chris Steak House though the buzz is a marked improvement over last year..

And for General Manager Joe Lazar an end to some sleepless nights.  He says, "It's much easier to go to sleep at night, wake up in the morning and come into work when you're 20-percent over in sales and doing a great job. It makes things a little big easier to deal with for sure."

Media inquiries to cover the Hall's opening have come from all over the world.  Some of the events like the swimming competition.. which attracted eight-time gold medal winner Michael Phelps last year (he'll be here against this year) will be beamed live worldwide.

"Uptown Charlotte is going to be cooking next week.. with the NRA in town and the NASCAR Hall of Fame. You know I hope that our world class swim meet doesn't overshadow those two events too much," says Jeff Gaeckle of Swim MAC Carolina.

Mark your calendars--the NASCAR Hall of Fame Grand opening is Tuesday.

The swim meet starts Thursday.

And the NRA convention opens Friday.

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