Committee to examine need for new convention center

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Plans are in motion to examine Memphis' need for a new convention center.

Less than 10 years after the construction of the Memphis Cook Convention Center, which was hampered by cost overruns and delays, some officials say the city could lose millions of dollars to other cities without a new facility.

Thursday, reaction was mixed to talk of a new convention center.  Nathan Walker's company, Cub Cadet, has its manufacturing based in Brownsville, Tennessee.  Walker said he's wanted to have the company convention in Memphis for years, but there has never been enough space.

"The expansion that the Marriott just had and the convention center that they just experienced here enabled us to bring our dealers in, and we're looking forward to having a good meeting this week," Walker said.
According to the Memphis Convention and Visitor's Bureau, tourism in Memphis is a $2 billion a year industry, bringing some nine million people to town annually. Fifty thousand jobs depend on tourism in Memphis, which is part of the reason why there's plan to study the need for a new convention center.
"No question that we need it," Memphis City Council member Shea Flinn said Thursday. "It's a question of can we afford it."
Flinn part of a committee recently established to explore the idea of a new convention center, with a going price of $600 million.

Some committee members have already talked about putting a new convention center across the street from AutoZone Park, near FedExForum.
"There's some homework that's already been done that says that's a good spot," Flinn said.

But not everyone agrees.  Memphis taxpayer and watchdog Joe Saino says the city and county are too far in debt and simply can't afford a new convention center.

"I don't have any faith in the people doing these things and running them in a financially responsible way," he said.

Flinn says the study should take at least a year.  No matter what the committee decides, the final goal will be to bring in more conventions from companies like Cub Cadet.

"So far it's looking good, and we'd certainty like to come back."

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