CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- With images of Mount Rushmore and the Statue of Liberty on large screens, convention organizers on Friday unveiled a transformed Time Warner Cable Arena that will serve as the stage for next week's Democratic National Convention.

North Carolina delegates get prime seating on the convention floor, seated up front in a hall described by organizers as a celebration of gathering with open walkways and exposed staircases.

A 38-foot by 36-foot screen and booming speakers surrounding the delegates give Democrats the look and feel we need to deliver their message promoting President Barack Obama s re-election effort, convention CEO Steve Kerrigan said.

This convention isn t a closed door ... elitist event, Kerrigan said.

Organizers billed Friday s public tour of the convention hall as the first of three free public events to thank Charlotteans for their support..

Monday brings CarolinaFest 2012, a street festival in uptown Charlotte featuring musical performers, children s activities and vendors.

On Thursday, thousands of campaign volunteers and members of the public will attend Obama s acceptance speech at Bank of America Stadium.

Organizers budgeted $7 million to prepare the arena, which will seat 15,000. Upfitting work included laying phone and Internet connections, and preparing suites for major news outlets covering the convention for a worldwide audience. Convention business begins Tuesday.

Money for the arena preparations comes from the $36.6 million the Charlotte host committee is raising for the convention. Host committee members will not disclose how much of that money has been raised.

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