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Ask Matt...about the Blue Ridge Conference Hall

A capacity crowd turned out at the Blue Ridge Conference Hall for a public forum on the Duke transmission line, one of many events the facility has hosted. A capacity crowd turned out at the Blue Ridge Conference Hall for a public forum on the Duke transmission line, one of many events the facility has hosted.

Q. How is the Conference Hall at Blue Ridge Community College doing in terms of what was expected when it was built?

When the BRCC Conference Hall opened in 2008, its main purpose was to house campus events, particularly scholarship luncheons, college night, lectures, and of course, graduation exercises. It was expected that there would be other users but no promises were made. Gradually the venue was discovered by the community and in the past year 224 events have taken place inside it doors serving some 43,000 people. I suspect that exceeded expectations.
The 11,000-square-foot hall has been the venue for the apple growers school, tourism workshops, job fairs, business expos, blood drives, art exhibits, formal balls, and more recently public meetings. The Hendersonville Symphony Orchestra tried it and liked the acoustics. Now the orchestra performs there regularly. BRCC President Molly Parkhill seemed pleased with how the facility has served the community, particularly our public schools. "Having events that include young students is a plus because it helps expose them to our campus and our programs," said Parkhill. I asked if based on today’s use, there was anything in the design that would have been done differently? Parkhill said that perhaps they could have expanded the kitchen area to better handle banquets and to hold culinary classes. Those items are now part of the College's capital improvement plan.
During the 1990s there were no fewer than four concerted attempts to build an event venue big enough to put 1,000 people under one roof. It seemed there were always two competing camps. The symphony folks supported a large sloped-floor concert hall while the theatre people wanted a building that could attract big name shows and that also required a fly tower for stage sets. There was no middle ground nor was there a benefactor for either group with a lead gift to jumpstart fundraising. In 2001, with a grant from the Community Foundation, a nonprofit operating as the Mill Center for the Performing Arts pursued a downtown performing arts center at the site of the Grey Hosiery Mill. It was a noble effort but the project lost traction when the cost soared to $35 million. Meanwhile the College was considering a flat floor multi-purpose facility. Functional by comparison and miles from downtown, it did however achieve the magical 1,000-seat mark and most importantly met the College’s needs. County Commissioners came up with the $16.1 million for the technology building plus the attached conference hall. Both opened in 2008 and within budget.