McDaniels open event venue Carolina Center at Commerce Park
By William F. West
Monday, July 17, 2017
About the same time Michael McDaniel started thinking he’d need something to do once he retired from the Coast Guard, he got an idea for what that something might be.
McDaniel, who spent his last nine years in the Coast Guard as an instructor at the Aviation Technical Training Center at Base Elizabeth City, noticed there weren’t a lot of places around to hold large private gatherings.
Some civic organizations have their meeting spaces, and Elizabeth City State University has operated the K.E. White Center since 1982.
"But otherwise you're fairly limited,” McDaniel said. “So, we felt like there was definitely a need here for an event venue."
Couple that need with McDaniel and his wife, Sherri’s desire to stay in Elizabeth City, and you have the origins of the Carolina Center.
On Thursday, the McDaniels and Sherri’s mother, Dorothy Breedlove, officially opened their new business, a conference center and entertainment venue on Corporate Drive in the Pasquotank County Commerce Park. The Carolina Center can be rented for class reunions, corporate parties, family reunions, holiday parties and weddings.
The Carolina Center features a 3,750-square-foot main ballroom, a 1,500-square-foot pre-function area and an approximately 500-square-foot conference meeting space that is multi-media friendly.
McDaniel said he and Sherri originally had looked at a site off Interpath Parkway, southwest of Elizabeth City, for their new business.
They eventually turned their focus, however, to what once had been the site of an Electronic Keyboards Inc. plant. Electronic Keyboards, before moving its operations to Wisconsin, had used the site to produce industrial-style keyboards.
McDaniel said he liked the former keyboard plant because of its proximity to Bypass U.S. Highway 17 and because it was hooked up for natural gas.
He and his family acquired the site in 2015 and, on the advice of an architect, began gutting the building's interior. Following the renovation work, the Carolina Center’s interior now resembles an Old World lodge.
"It's unique – nothing quite like it," McDaniel said. "What we wanted is something that was a little bit different in the area."
Asked why he decided to call the business the Carolina Center, McDaniel said it’s because he felt it helped connect him closer to his adopted home.
"I wanted a connection with the area. I am from Missouri, but this is my home," he said.
The biggest reason he and Sherri in fact decided to stay in Elizabeth City after his retirement from the Coast Guard — they met when he was stationed in Alaska — were the connections they had already made here.
"We were fond of the area and we were extremely fond of the people here," he said.
For now, the Carolina Center hasn’t hired any employees but Michael expects it will have to in the future.
Asked how he plans to market the Carolina Center, Michael said he initially was just focused on the Elizabeth City area. But then he started receiving calls from people in Virginia, asking about the center’s availability.
He attributes the interest from Virginia to the fact he’s renting the Carolina Center for prices that are a lot less than what’s available in the Hampton Roads area.
For more information about the Carolina Center, call 331-7723. The Carolina Center also has a Facebook page.