What is pale orange, maroon, concrete, steel and glass and has hosted the Phil Donahue Show, screaming fans of Elvis Presley impersonators as well as receptions for presidential contender Edward M. Kennedy and former secretary of State Henry Kissinger?
Wrong. The answer is the Baltimore Convention Center.
The center, which opened last August, is performing better than expected financially, the center's boosters say, although like most government-funded centers, it probably will never make a profit. But by June, when its first 12-month budget ends, the center will probably be $167,000 under its $887,000 appropriation, said James H. Smither, the center's executive director.
"I don't know any convention center that makes any money," Smither said.
The center, however, is on course as far as its main objective, which is to bring in conventioneers to spend money that subsequently creates jobs, brings in needed tax revenues and bolsters the city's businesses.
Smither said he expects that after the convention center has been operating a year, conventioneers will have spent about $25 million, generating about $1.25 million in state taxes.
The convention bureau had expected conventioneers to spend about $72.3 million annually by 1986, but that figure will be reached three years earlier, said Sherrie Hirsch, the center's director of advertising and promotion. Annual state revenues were also expected to increase by $4.1 million in 1986, a figure now expected to be reached by 1983.
"Because of cancellations or other things, we've been able to pick up business," Hirsch said.
All of the city's convention business, however, isn't going to the new convention center near the city's Inner Harbor development. Some of the conventioneers select the Baltimore Hilton, the Holiday Inn, the Baltimore Civic Center, the Lord Baltimore Hotel and other facilities. One reason is that convention planners may feel their meeting is too small for the new center, Smither said, or they may meet at the facility where they are staying, getting meeting rooms for free in the bargain.
Conventions are also planned several years in advance, and bookings for other facilities may have been made already.
The concrete, steel and glass center, softened by 250,000 daffodils planted around it, is in the midst of more than $615 million in private urban renewal investment in the downtown area. The convention center is the anchor for the city's revitalization plans, which include an extensive Inner Harbor development scheduled to open in July.
Years ago, the city's Inner Harbor area was a combination of rotting piers and dilapidated factories. Outdoor cafes, mllion-dollar office buildings, hotels and shopping arcades have replaced them.
A $170 million office-residential complex of condominiums, plazas and retail stores is also planned near the center.
The convention center has 115,000 square feet of unobstructed exhibit space that can be divided into four separate halls with expandable doors. The rough concrete floors have been shined with a glaze, but oil and other spots now mar its surface.
The center also has 41,000 square feet of meeting room area in 26 rooms, decorated in earth tones of peach, pink, maroon and brown. The center is carpeted in a gray tweed fabric that catches the light from the massive glass walls and skylights. Tiny shrubs and vines have been planted near fountains, expected to flow soon.
"Most convention centers are large concrete blocks and access is difficult," Hirsch said. "Here, there's so much glass and skylight you feel you're in Baltimore."