Up to 50,000 expected to attend National Baptist Convention in M - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Up to 50,000 expected to attend National Baptist Convention in Memphis

Memphis Cook Convention Center (Source: WMC Action News 5) Memphis Cook Convention Center (Source: WMC Action News 5)

Up to 50,000 visitors are expected to make their way to Memphis in September for the National Baptist Convention, which is nearly double the size of the COGIC convention that left the Bluff City in 2010.

National Baptist Convention Host Committee Leader Dr. Marvin Mercer explained one of many reasons the new national convention president, Dr. Jerry Young, approved Memphis.

"We are really centrally located where they can drive in rather than fly in," he explained.

Tourism leaders want the convention infrastructure up to par for such an influential group.

"We need to build about 20,000 hotel rooms between now and next month," laughed Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau President Kevin Kane.

What plans do the Memphis mayoral candidates have to bring this convention, and others, coming back year after year? All the mayoral candidates agree the outdated Cook Convention Center needs a makeover so the convention will return in 2016.

"This is one of the precise reasons you will see us go before the city council seeking that tax increase," said Memphis Mayor A C Wharton. 

"The plan is to increase the tax and fees on hotel rooms," said mayoral candidate Jim Strickland. "So, really only people staying in the hotel rooms will pay the fees. Not out of property taxes."

"We also recognize that public safety is priority number one and we wouldn't do anything  that would jeopardize public safety," added mayoral candidate Harold Collins.

Wharton says it is crucial to roll out the welcome mat.

"We want them to go back to Jackson or wherever and say good things about it.  It is critical," he said.

Strickland notes downtown sales taxes and charges already go to FedExForum. 

"So, in the next few years, we need to focus on improving what we have and aggressively going out and marketing us for mid-range conventions," Strickland added.

Collins would market Memphis' assets.

"We have three of the top 10 icon destination centers in the country, we have the top five zoo, we have FedExForum, which is a top five arena for NBA basketball," Collins said.

If you're interested in attending the National Baptist Convention in September, click here for more information.

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