By Robin Rieger
CAPE MAY, NJ (CBS) — Work continues on the new Cape May Convention Hall, as city officials count down to its anticipated grand opening on Memorial Day weekend. A public ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for 10 a.m. on Friday, and Saturday night’s concert will feature Peter Nero and the Philly POPS.
The city’s marketing director Mike Whipple gave us a tour of the 20,000 square-foot hall that was built using $10.5 million in taxpayer-approved bonds.
Ocean views are incorporated into the beachfront design where the old hall stood, and the Main Hall has state-of-the-art acoustics for performances and the flexibility to host conventions, weddings, shows and meetings.
“We also have a wall that divides the room–approximately 40 percent or 60 percent for smaller functions. We can have two things at the same time,” Whipple explained.
In a soft opening on May 12th, Lower Cape May High School students will dance the night away here at their prom, in keeping with tradition.
Roller-skating will also return for family fun, and holes for removable railings are in the sub floor.
“It was part of the process of the community’s input, to find out how people wanted this building to operate,” said Whipple.
The name will remain the Cape May Convention Hall, despite local author and historian Ben Miller’s online petition–with over 270 signatures–to rename it.
“Why not name this building Mariners Hall, and dedicate it to the people who founded Cape May, the original founders, as well as to the people who continue to go out there and risk their lives today?” Miller said via Skype.
There is a fishermen’s memorial on the harbor to honors those lost at sea, but Miller says something should be closer to more people.
“Cape May needs to make a much more visual memorial, something that people will be able to come and see,” Miller suggested.
But Whipple says the convention hall is part of the town’s history, too.
“It’s been here since the turn of the century, and I think there’s a lot of value to that,” Whipple said.
Most importantly, the city can’t wait to call it “open.” Several weddings in 2013 and 2014, as well as other events, have already been booked. Officials hope the center extends the summer season. They expect the hall to generate a half-million dollars in revenue through the end of the year, and plan to use it as an economic driver for the city.