Local commissioner voices his opinion of convention center

The Memphis-Cook Convention Center is clearly visible from his 30th floor office.  But Shelby County Commissioner Walter Bailey considers the building one of the biggest blunders ever.

"That thing just got out of hand," says Bailey.

He admits, the expansion project is pretty.  He says it just came at too high of a cost.  It was three years behind schedule and more than $30 million over budget.  Then there was the $14 million settlement with the company that built it.

"In terms of the financial side of it, it was an absolute disaster," says Bailey.

Some say that disaster is finally paying dividends.  The financial blunder has turned a corner.

"This is the largest convention year in the history of the city," says Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau President Kevin Kane.  "We've got 31major meetings booked this year," he adds.

Kane says a typical year sees 15 to 20 major meetings in Memphis.  That means we're up between 45% and 50%.  He points to the convention center as part of the reason.

"We don't have the largest convention center in the country," says Kane.  "We probably still don't have the best in the country, but we have a convention center that will allow us to compete," he adds.

He says the new Westin Hotel off Beale would not have been possible without the convention center expansion.

"The Westin is a direct result of that investment," says Kane.

It's an investment Walter Bailey may be warming up to.

"And hopefully down the road, it will pay off," says Bailey.

But he says it will take many more banner years.