National Baptist Convention coming to Memphis - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

National Baptist Convention coming to Memphis

(WMC Action News 5) (WMC Action News 5)

As an upgrade of the Memphis Cook Convention hangs in the balance, a major religious group has chosen Memphis for its 135th annual session. 

For the first time under new leadership, the five-day National Baptist Convention 2015 will return to Memphis September 7.

"We're calling it Super Bowl Week for Memphis," said Memphis Convention and Visitors' Bureau President Kevin Kane. "That's how we begin Labor Day week. We end the Saturday weekend after Labor Day with the annual Southern Heritage Classic."

The City of Memphis said the convention is expected to attract 50,000 attendees from around the country.

The announcement comes amid concerns about the outdated Cook Convention Center.

"It seems to me there's a disconnect between the look of this convention center and how things are going up downtown," said Memphian Jesse Wilson. "So they need to probably bring it up a bit."

In recent years, Memphis lost the annual COGIC convention to St. Louis. Some say the lack of convention center hotel space and more modern convention facilities in competing cities contributed to the loss. 

The announcement of a major new convention comes as the Memphis City Council considers a $55 million renovation of the city's outdated convention center. In addition, the city would also expand and build three hotels with 2,000 rooms for the center. That part of the plan would cost about $845 million over 15 years.

In the first of three readings, the council passed an ordinance to increase lodging taxes.

"We've got to bring our convention center up to 21st century standards," Kane added. "Obviously, sometime in the future, we need to expand."

Tourists said the money to renovate the convention center is a worthy cause.

"Memphis is a cool town," said visitor Jean Frater. "You've got a lot of things to see, to bring the tourists in. I think it's a great investment."

To register for the National Baptist Convention, click here.

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