Sponsored by Barnhill Contracting Company, Catering Works, and Skanska USA BuildingWritten By Sloane Heffernan
We put our finger on the pulse of Raleigh during the Leadership Raleigh March class focused on Health & Human Services.
The day began with a behind-the-scenes tour of PNC Arena from Jeff Merritt, Executive Director at Centennial Authority/PNC Arena. He shared the history and highlights of the arena in this VIP tour where the class got a spectacular bird’s eye view from the press box and stood in the backstage loading dock where amazing athletes and performers traverse before walking onto the stage. Merritt shared some of the unique requests his team had received from musicians who perform at PNC, such as Elton John reportedly asking for a separate room for his bobble-head collection!
We also learned that PNC Arena hosted its largest crowd (20,053) when Metallica came to Raleigh. The arena plays a big role in the economic health of the region. Merritt shared that 46% of the arena visitors are from outside the Raleigh area and fill an estimated 200-thousand rooms annually. The hospitality tax collected from those visitors helps financially support the arena. We also got the scoop on an exciting renovation project planned for PNC arena that includes opening a section to create a space for eating and drinking with a 360-degree view of the action.
Leadership Raleigh Class 46 then traveled to All Faiths Chapel at Dix Park for an engaging panel entitled: Hospital Leadership Forum – Where We’ve Been and What’s Next. It focused on the challenges, priorities, and needs in our healthcare systems. Representatives from Wake Med, Duke Raleigh Hospital, and UNC Rex Healthcare shared the struggles they face, from staffing shortages to the mental health crisis. We learned more about a new behavioral health hospital and the pending Medicaid expansion that should help improve care in our region.
Following the panel, we participated in a powerful Community Action Poverty Simulation led by Marisa Bryant, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Public School Forum of North Carolina and proud supporter of the Junior League of Raleigh. Each of us was assigned a persona and different life situations for the exercise where we faced unique circumstances, from being homeless to raising grandchildren while on disability. It was an eye-opening experience that made many of us realize the immense stress and difficult decisions that people in poverty face each and every day. We learned that 92-thousand people live in poverty in Wake County, 18% of those who live in poverty are children, and the average wait for federally subsidized housing in Wake County is four to seven years.
Executive Director of Dix Park for the City of Raleigh, Kate Pearce, then guided our Leadership Raleigh class on a walking tour of Dix Park land and facilities. Pearce was a walking historian reciting stories from Dix’s past as a plantation and psychiatric hospital. It was exciting to hear how the history will be incorporated into the future park with the Cultural Interpretive Plan. The first major park restoration project is the massive $62 million dollar playground, Gipson Play Plaza, that has been designed by a German company known for putting the “play” in playgrounds.
We ended the walking tour at the lovely Flowers Cottage at Dix Park. The cottage porch has one of the best views of the downtown Raleigh skyline and was a great location to end the day with networking and snacks. One thing we all agreed on? The pulse of the city has never been stronger!