Questions surround Convention Center's future - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Questions surround Convention Center's future

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - To expand, relocate or leave it alone?  Those are the questions currently swirling around the Cook Convention Center.

In a news conference last fall, Mayor Willie Herenton urged city leaders to invest in Cook Convention Center.  But the city's budget is running on fumes, and it could cost $100 million to expand, or $600 million to relocate.

Monday, Convention and Visitors Bureau President Kevin Kane says the recession won't last forever and the city must plan.

"Doing our research, and making sure that when the time is right we are positioned to be a winner in the game of tourism and hospitality," Kane said.
Convention Center Committee chairman Lee Jackson says the committee has authorized a feasibility study.

"We don't think we can afford to get out of the convention business," Jackson said. "So we just need to know where we are competitively."
"Some county commissioners, who couldn't go on camera because they were in a marathon session Monday, say they can't believe this is even being considered at a time when we're in such a financial crunch."

"I think a feasibility study is certainly not pressing a button and saying we're going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars," Kane said.

But Jackson warns current conventions, like the Farm & Gin Show now in town, could outgrow Memphis.  He says Cook dropped in national rankings from 45th place in 2004.

"Recent reports show that we rank about 100th," he said.

The feasibility study will assess the market, analyze architectural and engineering issues, and take a close look at the money situation.

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