MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The long-awaited renovation of the Memphis Convention Center begins Thursday.
Mayor Jim Strickland joined other city leaders for a groundbreaking Thursday.
"This will be a game changing renovation of this facility," said Strickland
The 51-year-old Cook Convention Center is getting a new life and a new name, now known as the Memphis Convention Center.
City leaders tossed ceremonial rubble to signify the kickoff of construction Wednesday.
Over the next two years, the convention center will get upgrades to both the interior and exterior. The project comes with a $135.8 million price tag, which is funded through the hotel/motel tax and Tourism Development Zone funds.
It took three rounds of bidding to find a contractor and a plan that would keep them under budget. The city also had to re-prioritize some of the upgrades.
Video renderings show a facility with modern finishes and more flex space, including an exterior concourse that showcases the Mighty Mississippi.
The convention center is set to make a bold statement to visitors who come in on the I-40 bridge.
Kevin Kane with Memphis Tourism said the updates will help the bluff city land bigger conventions, which means more money.
“Tourism and hospitality is a 3.5 billion industry for Memphis and Shelby County,” said Kane.
The project is expected to be finished in fall 2020.