CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For the first time in more than 30 years, the Charleston Civic Center won't host the governor's inauguration party, a move that will cost the facility about $150,000. Cards mailed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's inauguration committee show the event will be held at 7 p.m. Jan. 14 at the Clay Center, after the 1 p.m. swearing-in on the Capitol steps. Civic center general manager John Robertson tells the Charleston Daily Mail that his venue has hosted the governor's inaugural party since Sen. Jay Rockefeller's second term as governor in 1981. The governor's inauguration committee selected the venue, but Tomblin spokeswoman Amy Shuler-Goodwin said the decision ultimately came down to the governor and first lady Joanne Tomblin.
Robertson said most governors have rented the entire civic center and used its catering services to host as many as 6,000 people. He learned of the decision in a voicemail from Shuler-Goodwin, who offered to explain it, and said he was disappointed by the news. "There's no sense in me calling back. They've made their decision,'' he said. "I may not agree with it . . . but we're not in a position to contest it.''This inaugural party will be smaller than those that have preceded it because the Clay Center can hold only 2,000 people. About 500 tickets are for the public, while the other 1,500 will go to invited guests. "They're going to use basically every space we have,'' said spokeswoman LeAnn Dickens. Only the planetarium will be closed. The Clay Center has a performance hall, theater, art galleries and a 12,000-square-foot science museum. The Tomblins love the civic center, Shuler-Goodwin said, but the Clay Center "is also a beautiful building and a crown jewel of the city of Charleston.''Tomblin's first inauguration was slightly more than a year ago. He won a special gubernatorial election after former Gov. Joe Manchin was elected to fill the seat of the late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd. But Tomblin didn't throw a big bash then, citing the state of the economy. Tomblin also had only a small ceremony when he was sworn in as acting governor in 2010, before the special election.