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ROCKY MOUNT — Thousands of people gathered Thursday for the Rocky Mount Event Center’s grand opening celebration.
“We designed this building to be very flexible,” said Mayor David Combs. “There is nothing like this in North Carolina, I can tell you that, and there is certainly nothing like this in eastern North Carolina.”
The $48 million venue stirred a great deal of controversy from the moment city officials announced the project. Much of the debate centered around where the 165,000-square-foot facility would be located between Nash and Edgecombe counties.
Originally the plan was geared more toward concerts and conferences, but consultants swayed officials to focus more on building on the sports tourism already successful with the nearby sports complex but in a flexible layout. After 18 months of construction, the center can house tournaments, special events and concerts, but other attractions include an indoor arcade and adventure area with climbing walls and ropes course. The facility also is home to an Opportunities Industrialization Center health clinic and the Twin County Hall of Fame.
“It offers something for everyone and is a model for this type of facility throughout the country,” said City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney. “Rocky Mount is on the map because of it.”
Superior Court Judge Lamont Wiggins, who served on the Rocky Mount City Council before a March appointment to the bench in Wilson County, was thrilled to be a part of the ceremony and cut the ribbon before the festivities.
“It is just extraordinary to see a project of this magnitude come to fruition because I have been in the midst of it since we initially started talking about it about six years ago,” Wiggins said. “Ultimately, it is going to have a major economic impact in this community and in this region. This is going to be a regional facility and that is the reason we put it on the ground.”
Many residents from throughout the area, including Wilson, attended the event and stayed for concerts by The Tams and Deep Fried Funk as well as George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic.
“This is proof that for all the divisiveness we’re surrounded by, we can be together in a place to celebrate what is good and right and wholesome,” said Dev Pathik, CEO of Sports Facilities Advisory, the company hired to manage the event center.