Personnel File - July 2008: Entertainment
CEO, Crown Center
Though Fayetteville native Paul Beard retired from the entertainment industry at the ripe old age of 18 — his parents owned the local speedway, and he grew up selling tickets and concessions — he couldn’t stay away. Two decades later, he was back in the business, running technical operations for the Crown Center, an entertainment complex in his hometown. In March, after 12 years of working both the technical and administrative sides, he was named CEO. “I guess I should have known I’d end up back in entertainment,” Beard, 53, says. “You could say it’s in my blood.”
At 18, he began work on a degree in television broadcasting at Central Carolina Community College in Sanford, but a car accident damaged tendons in his arms so badly he needed three months of physical therapy to use his hands again. He went to work as an air-conditioning technician and became an electrician, hooking up electrical systems for schools, shopping centers and churches in Virginia and the Carolinas. In 1996, the Crown Center recruited him for his ability with ice: It needed help creating a rink for the local hockey team. Starting as an event manager, he became operations manager, director of operations and chief operating officer before becoming CEO in March.
Beard has high hopes for the Crown Center, which over the years has grown from a 4,500-seat theater, opened in 1967, to a complex that includes a 2,400-seat theater, a coliseum that can seat up to 11,500 and a 60,000-square-foot expo center. Attendance has been up in the past few months, and the center has even sold out shows in the coliseum, something that never had happened before. Beard theorizes the high cost of fuel may have something to do with it. “With gas prices being so high, people aren’t going to drive four, five or six hours every other weekend to see Grandma and Grandpa. They’re going to look for something to do closer to home.” An even bigger boon, he believes, will be the expansion of nearby Fort Bragg. Two commands and about 4,600 active-duty soldiers will be transferred there, along with dependents and contract workers. Though the transfer won’t be complete until 2011, already the number of military-related trade shows and social events has increased.