Tonight I sit in bed, unwinding from 2 great days at the National Quartet Convention in it’s new location in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. I attended both the Tuesday and Wednesday night concerts and enjoyed the music both nights thoroughly. I thought I would take a few moments to hit on a few key things that impressed me about my time here. Let me first start off with my thoughts on the new venue, the LeConte Center.
THE LECONTE CENTER
The City: It was absolutely beautiful during our time in Pigeon Forge, and you could not have asked for better weather. I could not have been happier with our time there and I enjoyed it thoroughly! Pigeon Forge was a great host city for NQC.
Seating: There are many mixed reviews from the fans on the new home of the NQC. Some people have been pleased with the new venue, while others have not been so impressed. Despite it’s appearance in pictures or videos, The LeConte Center is not a small venue, at all. The 10,000 seat auditorium served it’s patrons well for the most part. I sat 8 rows from the front and had a great view. The majority of comments that I have seen from people sitting near the back of their sections were not so positive, saying that they could not see the stage or their view was obstructed by those in front of them. I guess your satisfaction would depend upon where you were sitting. But for me personally, I was very happy with my seats both nights.
Sound: Everynight is a different experience, sometimes the sound was great. Sometimes it was horrible. But all in all, it was what you’ve come to expect at NQC. When it was good, it was good. But when it was bad, it was ridiculous. The Rick Webb Family’s set I would pick as the worst moment of my time at the convention. The sound was never right for them, and it fed back horribly for the first half of their performance of “Oh For A Thousand Tongues”.
Booth Space: Booth spaces were quite an adjustment this year, as the booths shifted from one location (Louisville) to being more spread out throughout the lobby of The LeConte Center. While most of the major groups tables lined up the hall that led around to the food court, some were set up in various locations. There was a conference room where a majority of groups were located, but there were some smaller rooms off to the side that had some booths as well. Not the best setup but I was eventually able to find all the groups I wanted.
Food Court: The new Food Court was what I expected, not a whole lot of options and way too much money. Not pleased with it at all.
Parking: This is the biggest issue. The parking is a joke. Before the doors opened both nights, the lot was 90% full. With nowhere to put people, folks were forced to either park across the street or at different locations. Then there was the tram issue. There were trams that picked up the group and took them back to their section of the parking lot. You would not believe the flat out rudeness and hostility of CHRISTIAN people, shoving and pushing folks out of the way to get a seat on the tram. I witnessed police officers having to raise their voice to SENIOR CITIZENS, so they would stand on the sidewalk and patiently wait for their ride. And Thank God for the Pigeon Forge Police Department and their presence there. I cannot believe it, but we could of been on the brink of a riot because of impatient people who should know better than to act how they were.
Traffic: I recall hearing someone in a prominent group remarking , “I live there and I can tell you there will not be heavy traffic, its the off season.” Well, we all quickly figured out that was not the case. Once 3:30 hit traffic moved VERY slowly, and it was slow moving getting out of the Parking Lot.
I heard some complaints from folks who had attended Louisville for years. The main complaint is that the seating/views were not as good, especially from farther away. As I said, i was 8 rows from the stage so I cannot judge it, but I understand their point of view and frustration. But I will say that when I stood in the back of the hall and watched, the view was not horrible. Sometimes people don’t realize how good they had it until it’s gone. Louisville was the perfect setup (especially when you figure that all the showcases were on site) and as nice as Pigeon Forge was, I missed Freedom Hall. It’s a mixed bag, but you can’t have everything you want. Would you rather walk up a ton of stairs to get to an upper bowl seat where you can see everything, even if its farther away? Or would you rather not have to walk steps, but possibly sit farther back and be forced to watch the screens, which is what you would have been doing in the upper bowl of Louisville? There are plenty of kinks that need to be worked out and hopefully they will be in time for next years event.
However, if Christian people cannot voice their displeasure any better than I have witnessed this week, we are in trouble. And let me say if you did not attend this week, you have NO RIGHT WHATSOEVER to complain about the size of the LeConte Center. The venue is plenty big enough, and video and picture views can be deceiving. I believe there were some falsehoods that were told to many people when it came to topics, such as traffic. I can’t tell you where this event will be two years from now, but whether its stays in Pigeon Forge or goes elsewhere I hope it will be in a better position than it is today.