Busy U.S. Cellular Center growing its audience

Upcoming events at the U.S. Cellular Center include, from left, the Southern Conference basketball championship in March, Bill Maher on Feb. 20 and the Alabama Shakes April 26.



Chris Corl and the U.S. Cellular Center team have their hands full this month. And next.

That’s because Asheville’s U.S. Cellular Center is on a roll. It will be in use 57 of 60 calendar days from February through March. And as its general manager, Corl oversees everything from concerts to conventions, events as large as the SoCon basketball tournament March 3-9 to the Craft Beverages Unlimited industry trade show and conference, which happened in the middle of last week. This newly booked industry conference, which has already rebooked for next year, ran for three days with 132 booths on the ExploreAsheville.com Arena floor.

“The goal is to get more of these conferences because they tend to book during what we call ‘dark days’ — the days we don’t usually book,” Corl explained. “This will also help make the building more sustainable by providing events and therefore more revenue, with midweek ripples out to nearby hotels and restaurants.”

Phases 2 and 3 of the USCC renovation  were specifically designed to attract events like that, trade shows and conventions. It’s paying off because more are scheduled for later this year.

“The nice thing is that 90% of Craft Beverages Unlimited attendees were out-of-towners, boosting hotels in February, when it’s not tourist season,” said Corl.

It’s a success the City hopes to build on.

“The U.S. Cellular Center’s ability to host larger conferences and trade shows is a great economic development tool,” said Sam Powers, Community and Economic Development Director (and Corl’s boss).  “We don’t want to compete with the existing meeting and conference facilities, but rather we wish to enhance the ability of Asheville to host business and industry events.  Increasingly, event organizers are seeking to have events that allow attendees to experience all that downtown Asheville offers, and our renovated state-of-the-art facilities at USCC now can provide that experience.”

Concerts and weekend events serve as the USCC’s staple. And this weekend is loaded up:

  • Umphrey’s McGee has a 2-night stand in the ExploreAsheville.com Arena Friday & Saturday;
  • Comedian Bill Maher takes the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium stage Saturday;
  • Vince Gill and Lyle Lovette share a double bill in Thomas Wolfe Auditorium Sunday.

And newly announced, the April 26 Alabama Shakes show has jumped from Thomas Wolfe Auditorium to ExploreAsheville.com Arena in response to ticket sale demand.



By the numbers

68,033: Projected attendance for February and March of 2016.

$12.8 million: Money for renovations 2011-2014 from the City of Asheville, Tourism Development Authority, Buncombe County, naming rights from U.S. Cellular and private donations. The upgrades ranged from a new basketball floor in the arena to common space improvements in the lobby and conversion of some storage to meeting space.

19,273: Estimated man hours needed to staff the USCC February through March; this includes administrative staff, box office, food and beverage, events staff, stage hands and security employees.

$3 million: US Cellular Center annual budget.

2,431: Thomas Wolfe Auditorium capacity seating.

7,200: ExploreAsheville.com Arena seating.

85,000 square feet: Available meeting/convention space.


Find out more

Visit USCellularCenterAsheville.com and click on “events” to find out what’s coming up.

Follow @USCellularCTR on Twitter.

Check out USCellularCenterAsheville.com/venue to read more about the renovations and upgrades to the facility.

Tickets can be purchased at the U.S. Cellular Box Office, 87 Haywood St., or by calling 828-259-5736.