Maxwell Regional Agricultural and Convention Center

The Maxwell Regional Agricultural and Convention Center, which opened March 1, 2018, just completed its first year of operation, exceeding its budgeted income through the reporting quarter that ended Dec. 31.

The Maxwell Center hosted just about everything possible during its first year — even a wake.

“In our first 365 days, we had 200 event days this past year with over 50,000 patrons,” center General Manager James Wade told Wayne County commissioners during their Tuesday meeting. “Again, we count an event day as a day that an event is moving in or an event is happening.”

The number of events held over the first year was well above what had been projected, he said.

Also in its first year, the center exceeded its budgeted income thanks especially to rental of facilities and the sale of beer and alcohol — all of which was well above what was budgeted, he said.

Some of it was quite a bit above, Wade said. For the quarter ending in December, the center was $40,000 above budgeted revenues.

That is quite a feat for the first year, Commissioner Ray Mayo said.

“We hope to keep that going and have a good fiscal year,” Wade said. “We did win in our first year the Convention South Readers’ Choice Award. Over 2,000 venues nationwide were put up for that award. Only 20 in the state of North Carolina ended up winning.

“We were one of those, so we are very proud that we won that award.”

The Maxwell Center opened March 1, 2018, although discussions about the project go back almost 20 years.

The center is celebrating its first 365 days in several ways, Wade said.

It is doing so through print, including the April issue of GO, the News-Argus’ free travel magazine, and social media, he said.

The celebration includes a contest called The First 365.

People can sign up at the Maxwell Center website, www.themaxwellcenter.com, to win a $500 credit toward equipment or room rental. It is open to individuals and companies.

“With that giveaway, we have been running a Facebook promotion that so far has been viewed by about 8,000 people just in the last four days,” he said. “Because of our booking policy, we only book large shows out more than nine months.

“Smaller shows come along and actually a lot of our tiny shows where it is a meeting for 20 people or 40 people, some of them don’t come to us until a week or two out sometimes. So we are constantly booking rooms that are available.”

As of Tuesday, 145 event days are booked for March 2019 to March 2020, Wade said.

It is looking good to have so many days booked thus far, he said.

Some of those are the larger events since the center is one of the few places around where groups larger than 400 people can gather for a dinner, banquet or a dance, he said.

“I recall the days when we first started out if you had only seen the original drawings you would be amazed,” Commissioner Joe Daughtery said. “I think we started out with a structure that would seat between 350 and 400.”

Daughtery said he thinks there was some pushback from making the center as large as it is.

It should have been larger, he said.

The center, Daughtery said, is a big, big plus for the county.

The Maxwell Center is one of the best things going in Wayne County, Commissioner Wayne Aycock said.

“If we could just get the facility larger where we could book larger events,” Aycock said. “We are missing out on a lot of sales tax.”

Efforts need to continue to secure a hotel on the property adjoining the Maxwell Center, Mayo said.

“The biggest challenges that we have are the hotel for some of the bigger events that want to come to town, and then the other biggest challenge is space,” Wade said.

That includes space needed to store items for upcoming larger events, he said.